It’s the day before Halloween and I don’t know about you, but the end of October always bums me out just a little bit. Not that I ever need an excuse to indulge in the scary stuff, but a month devoted to horror always feels special to me, and I always try to get in as much of it as possible. Lots of movie watching and book reading, and of course, comics as well.
In this last week, my reading on the Marvel App has been devoted to a series I had never heard of before, featuring a character that I’d barely been exposed to in all my years of fandom. When Hellstrom got his own Hulu series, consider me shocked. I’d never even read an issue he was in.
Marvel has been doing a solid job of reissuing books featuring Damien Hellstrom, the Son of Satan. A few months ago the Hellstrom: Evil Origins collection was released, collecting the characters earliest appearances as crafted by Chris Claremont, Gary Friedrich, Bill Mantolo and J.M. DeMatteis to name just a few.
Unsurprisingly, the material is very much indicative of comics, horror or otherwise, of the era (we’re talking 1972), which means some suspect depictions of race and women. The book is worthwhile for its historical relevance, but it doesn’t really hold a candle to Hellstrom: Prince of Lies, a 1993 series that was collected just this week.
Hellstrom: Prince of Lies
Writers: Len Kaminski, Rafael Nieves
Artists: Michael Blair, Peter Gross, Leonardo Manco
Here’s the logline:
The Son of Satan is back — and there’s hell to pay! Daimon Hellstrom has long struggled with his nature and his evil parentage. He’s been an adventurer, a hero and a Defender — even a husband to Patsy “Hellcat” Walker. But that was years ago. Now storm clouds gather as Hellstrom walks among mortal men once more — for his new path is one of death and damnation! Unholy threats are on the rise, and the cynical, embittered Hellstrom is the only one who can combat them — if he can survive the many tricks his father’s kingdom has in store! Hellstrom encounters Gabriel the Devil-Hunter, Doctor Strange, the Gargoyle and more as he battles demonic doppelgangers, murderous mortals, faith healers and damned souls. But what will happen when Hellstrom goes to Hell?
What I’ve enjoyed most about this 11-issue series is that it is not only some of the darkest, horror work I’ve ever read from Marvel, it’s also incredibly self-aware. Hellstrom: Prince of Lies reads like a DC Vertigo book of the time, and it absolutely knows it. In the first four issues alone, there are just tons of references, both subtle and not-so to characters like Etrigan The Demon, Batman, and John Constantine. I love that Kaminski and Nieves wrote this material in and that Marvel editorial, specifically the book’s editor, Fabian Nicieza let it go to print. To me it absolutely makes a ton of sense – anybody who would be picking up this book at the time would likely be familiar with the genre and what was out there, and those knowing winks and nods act as something of a thank you for reading Hellstrom as well. Certainly fans of Hellblazer, The Sandman, and Lucifer fund a lot to love in this supernatural story. That is, if they read it back then.
I’d suspect, however, for all of the quality storytelling you’ll find in Hellstrom: Prince of Lies that the book wasn’t a resounding commercial success, falling somewhat under the radar, much like the character itself. So it’s a great turn of events that, timed with the arrival Hulu show, this series has been collected and given a new lease on life (or death?). As October comes to a close, the wind gives off its chill, and the leaves change colour and begin to fall, Hellstrom: Prince of Lies is a solid story to curl up with.
And that’s no lie.