Hellbound V marks the end of the Hellbound series, but luckily the books are going out on a seriously high note. The Hellbound series is an annual horror anthology comic book conceived by the disgustingly creative people of the Boston Comics Roundtable in conjunction with the equally talented sickos at River Bird Comics. Each year they’ve used a different theme to explore the possibilities of what horror can be. Hellbound III’s theme, for example, was “Darkness,” and for a change of pace last year’s collection was a surprisingly fun all-ages affair entitled “Gulp.” This year’s “End of Comics” brings the series fully around for its last installment, returning the horror comic back to its macabre roots for a fittingly apocalyptic finale.
The 48-page book contains seven original stories written and drawn by some of Boston’s best independent cartoonists as well as a couple bonus illustrations by Dan Moynihan (Nickelodeon Magazine, Heeby Jeeby Comix), and Jerel Dye (Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, Pigs Might Fly), which serve as palette cleansers between the book’s main courses.
It opens with “Brunch” by Alison Burke and Tara Harris, a casual vignette about dining out in Inman Square that takes a weird turn. Next up is the oddball grisly humor of Ben Doane’s “Monster Hunt,” the artwork and offbeat characterization of which reminded me of Brad Neely’s Professor Brothers or China, IL in their small-town, bugfuck intensity.
Dan Mazur’s “A History of the Hollywood Musical” depicts the desolation of an anthropomorphic dog riding out a nuclear war in his basement bunker by watching classics like Oliver and The Broadway Melody. The dialogue-free piece features solid, understated storytelling coupled with confident, clean layouts.
The next two stories, ‘The Death of Love” by Stephen Cartisano and Ellen T. Crenshaw, and “Somebody Else” by Patrick Flaherty and Brenton Barnes both employ good old-fashioned EC Comics or “Twilight Zone”-style twist endings to satisfying punchline results.
The penultimate tale here, “Blood and Breakfast” by Garry Bonesteel, is a crime story told over fried eggs and bacon and rendered in a simple Sunday comic strip style. Hellbound V saves the best for last with the laconic, sexually charged nightmare factory that is writer E. J. Barnes and artist Clayton McCormack’s “Consummation.”
E.J. Barnes is an accomplished artist herself, and it shows with her writing here, because she’s confident enough to leave the majority of the storytelling to McCormack’s ferociously gruesome illustrations. So instead of cluttering up the panels with unneeded exposition, Barnes only employs her words in sharp, dissonant bursts that contrast the horror with lovesick perversity.
Delivering a satisfying conclusion at the end of anything can be a tall order, and providing one to cap off an entire series might seem like an impossible feat, but Hellbound V manages it. A heavy chunk of credit for this has to go to series creator Roho, who has designed and published each edition of Hellbound. Editor Stephen Cartisano, who’s been a part of the series since the New England Art Award nominated Volume II, deserves high praise as well. Whatever either does next I’d been interested enough, on the strength of this collection alone, to seek it out. While the title of this final edition is End of Comics it’s a safe bet that none of the Boston cartoonists involved with Hellbound are actually finished making funnybooks. Can you imagine this town without independent comic books? The horror, the horror!
HELLBOUND V: END OF COMICS | RIVER BIRD COMICS | NOW AVAILABLE