Pullbox Reviews: Hell #3 – Terror waits deep beneath the waves of the Bermuda Triangle…

The mission clock is ticking for the Cal-Ex spike team: the scientist, the troubleshooter, the witch, the murderer, and Kartkas the emissary from the Underneath… a place which we Upworlders have always called HELL.

But first they have to ride the “Bullet”- the capsule that will deliver them unto Hell.

And the trip may destroy them before they even set foot.

In the tradition of all the really cool horror movies involving intrepid explorers breaching the unknown and finding soul crushing terror, we’re almost halfway through this eight-issue limited series before the trip is even started. There’s all of the obligatory “getting to know you” conversations, some tension building in the ranks as old scores are brought up, and the exposition needed to get readers up to speed on how a journey to Hell might be managed. In some comics, this would be a royal pain, but as it’s all coming from a comic that would make one (really sorry about this) Hell of an old school horror movie it all seems to work.

Writer David Schow has a lot on his plate as he sets up the relationships among a pretty large cast of characters. If you’ve ever watched any movies like John Carpenter’s The Thing (the farther into Hell I read, the more I think that’s a great comparison) or more recently The Cabin in the Woods, you already know that a lot people equates to a higher body count. Having read the first three issues of Hell, I’m making a game of trying to guess who’s going to be the first to get canked once the trip to the Underworld kicks off. The drawback is that there’s a lot of people to be introduced and information to get across, but not a lot of comic book to do it in. Schow does his best to cram it in as best he can, but it’s a lot of exposition to wade through as readers are told instead of showed, and the many conversations kind of jump around. The ensuing confusion is saved by Schow’s presentation. The characters are either likeable or annoying, true to all of the classic movie traditions, and the dialogue is sharp as relationships are built.

Just a note, as per my previous review of the first issue, the Hellish refugee Kartkas is still the most interesting person of the bunch.

The artwork by the team of Andres Esparza (pencils & inks) and Sergio Martinez (colors) is nothing short of outstanding. Esparza has a lot going on that he has to keep track of. He’s managed to maintain some very distinctive character designs, a blessing as I once again repeat myself by noting that there’s a damn lot of characters in this comic. Even better, Esparza puts personality in every facial expression, never just leaving someone dangling in the background as empty skin suits or filler. There’s the impression that everyone is up to something or has something going on. The other impressive bit of work is in the various environments that are laid out on the page, from the storm-tossed ocean of the Bermuda Triangle, to the top-secret deep-sea complex referred to as “Steamdrop”. Esparza’s line work is beautifully fleshed out through Martinez’s colors, and their combined efforts have me stoked to see what kind of wonders/horrors they bring out once the story moves on to the promise in its title.

I’d have to say that the only real problem with Hell is found in the limits of its episodic nature. All horror stories are built on pacing, and as the third issue comes in at around 22 pages this is a series that I think is going to read better as one continuous book. The first three issues have me looking forward to a collected trade release (which I’ll happily be adding to my bookshelf once it’s out in the world), but at no point have I been discouraged by the starts & stops. It’s all building up to what I hope will be a fantastic series of quality reveals and inevitable kills as our intrepid group sets off to visit Hades’ domicile.

Final Score: 10/13

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