• Hellbound

    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: September 23rd, 2015.
    Writer: Davide Dileo, Victor Gischler
    Artist: Riccardo Burchielli, Francesco Mattina
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    Originally published in Italy as Highway To Hell, the story here starts off in Caldedonia County, Vermont. Agent Isaac Brew eats some hot dogs, much to the disgust of his vegetarian partner, Jayesh Mirchandani. They drive to the small town of Black Briar but the local cops don’t want to let them check out the scene. One head butt later the top cop in town is more than happy to let them in and hand over the situation to them – something seriously fucked up has happened, the eight severed heads displayed with the bodies and the skeleton found in the butcher shop make that much clear.

    Our two feds wind up working with Sheriff Cobb, a surly type with a big white mustache. He’s got a hiker named Dalton Bisbee in custody who he suspects might have something to do with this. Mirchandani questions him while Brew hits on local sexy lady cop Ramierz. We see, through the magic of the comic book flashback, how Bisbee came across the severed heads out in the woods when the girl he was wanting to get with brushed him off.

    Elsewhere there’s a couple in a tow truck. The guy heads inside a diner while the girl waits in the truck and smokes. We hear screams coming from inside. Mirchandani tells Ramirez, a curious sort, how he and Brew came to be the guys who handle the weird cases. From here, the pair head out to Massachusetts to follow up on a lead – bodies at the diner. After an altercation with the local fuzz, Brew heads outside to calm down and finds a strange piece of metal in the parking lot. They trace it to a house out in the sticks inhabited by heavily armed militants who don’t like the government snooping around their business. Meth lab. This leads to a junkyard, and then to a familiar looking tow truck. The driver gets out, dressed like something out of a Mad Max movie, and heads into a house. The two agents go after him, and after busting down the door, see him come face to face with…. a giant dog? A demon? A hellhound?

    Mirchandani gets bit. They wind up back at the house of the armored guy and his girl. Turns out the armored guy is named Dusker, that he saved her years back from a monster not unlike the one they just fought.

    Meanwhile, a group of elitist types enjoy a feast… a cannibalistic feast. They’ve gotten together to talk about Dusker, what to do about the only one out there who really seems to be able to do anything about them. One named Zeke stands up against their leader, Marion, but that doesn’t go well. They come up with a plan and hope that their plants, agents working for them basically undercover, will do what they need them to do. And they do, which means that they figure out where Dusker and the rest of them are hiding and decide to be proactive about the problem that these mortals pose.

    Brew tries to get help from the local cops, but the bad guys get there first and hot damn do they ever leave a big ol’ mess. No help there, so Brew heads to Vermont – Ramirez offered to help and he’s going to take her up on that. She doesn’t answer the phone when he calls and assumes he’s only trying to get into her pants until something else, something otherworldly, shows up at her place to kill her. Of course, Brew and the girl show up just in time to save her – and once she’s convinced, Ramirez goes to do what she can to get help. Marion and his cronies, however, they’re just getting started… the master is coming and he’s bringing Hell with him.

    Davide Dileo and Victor Gischler have taken the buddy cop concept, given it a multicultural twist, and transplanted it into a world where the supernatural is not the exception but the rule. More character development between our two feds would have been welcome, we don’t really get to learn their back story at all, and we’re left wanting in that regard because these guys are actually pretty fun together. The opening pages make it seems like it’s going to go there and when it doesn’t, it’s a disappointment. We do get some pretty neat background details on Dusker and his lady friend though, and a lot of flat out bizarre and occasionally disgusting ideas put to paper in regards to the bad guys. The story goes at a quick pace and it makes for a fun read.

    As far as the artwork goes, you couldn’t ask for a better team than Riccardo Burchielli and Francesco Mattina. Burchielli shows a bit of a Mignola/Kevin Nowlan influence here while Mattina’s painted style harkens back to some of the stuff that Kent Williams and Jon Jay Muth did on the Wolverine Havok – Meltdown four issue series that came out years back. High praise? Indeed but it’s warranted. Both art styles really work well in the context of the storytelling here and it’s pretty cool to see how the two styles intermingle to work towards concluding the same story. It’s pretty seamless, even if the two art styles are very different.

    This is a fun read, a great mix of action and horror for an adult audience. These guys aren’t afraid to pull punches in the gore department, there’s some genuinely horrific visuals on display her, but the story moves well, has enough interesting characters and feature enough humor that once it’s all over with, it leaves you wanting more. Hopefully we’ll get it.