Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Is this Bill Reed’s favorite comic ever? Only he knows for sure!!!!
Recently, Dark Horse re-released some Mike Mignola stories from earlier in this decade, plus a few brandy-new stories. It’s a Mignolapalooza! This is a fancy hardcover pricing out at 17 dollars and 99 cents, and yes, it’s pretty awesome.
The highlight, I suppose, is “The Amazing Screw-On Head.” Mignola writes in the backmatter that he originally planned it as something modern, but it gradually turned into what he usually does – a kind of weird steampunk Victorian thing, with Abraham Lincoln employing Screw-On Head to fight evil. Screw-On Head is, well, screwed onto a robot body, then he and his trusty butler, Mister Groin, head off to thwart Emperor Zombie from finding the Kalakistan fragment, which tells the life story of Gung the Magnificent, who nearly conquered the world in 9632 BC using “supernatural powers.” The fragment will give Emperor Zombie similar powers, apparently. But then there’s a monster, so Screw-On Head and Emperor Zombie must work together! It’s a wildly fun story, with Mignola’s twisted sense of humor coming through very nicely. The cowardly unnamed vampire chick who hangs out with Emperor Zombie cracks me the hell up.
There’s a story about Gung himself, from when he was a boy and how he fooled the devil. It’s a clever fairy tale and shows how Gung might someday rule the world. “The Magician and the Snake,” the concept of which came from Mignola’s young daughter, is, interestingly enough, much like how a child would do a story – there’s some internal logic but it makes very little sense. That’s why it works, to a degree – it’s just long (or short) enough that the weirdness isn’t strung out too far, so you get a sense of mood very well and the story ends before you can really think about it too much. The two new stories, “The Witch and Her Soul” and “The Prisoner of Mars” are also the same vein. “The Witch and Her Soul” is a fairy tale along the same lines as the Gung story, while “The Prisoner of Mars” features a younger Doctor Snap, who is part of Emperor Zombie’s entourage in the lead story. This is a fun short story, as Snap is forced to kill a colleague but learns that the colleague’s soul actually ascended to Mars, where it has been placed in a Martian body. Of course, you can’t trust those lousy Martians! Along with “The Amazing Screw-On Head,” this is the best story in the collection, probably because it’s almost as funny as the first one.
Of course, another highlight is Mignola’s art, of which we see far too little these days. I don’t really have a lot to say about Mignola’s art – if you’ve ever read a comic, you know what it looks like and whether it’s for you or not. What he does nicely in this collection is link some of the stories – the snake shows up in a few different stories, and the magician holding the snake becomes a statue in other stories, which is a nice touch. Mignola has such a way with building these moody, strange, ancient worlds – his worlds look like they have deep histories, and it’s always wonderful to look at all the details in his panels. You know the art will be amazing – it’s Mignola!
If you’ve read these before, you might want to skip this collection even though there are new stories. But if you haven’t read them, you should check this book out, because it’s neat to see Mignola doing stuff with other characters rather than just his Hellboy toys. We probably won’t see more of it, so now’s your chance!
Tomorrow: World War II action!
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