By: Mike Mignola (with help from Katie Mignola)
Genre: short stories (fantasy, adventure, folk tale stuff)
Context: originally published in all sorts of places by Dark Horse; collected in a pretty hardcover in 2010
Mignola is best known for his Hellboy comics, and at the rate I’m writing these reviews, there will eventually be months of reviews of those books. As much as I love them, though, I will never love them as much as this book. Mignola has said that he came up with the Hellboy concept by throwing together all the stuff he loved to draw: monsters, folklore, statues, and so on. However, once those books became a constrained universe, I think the raw creativity was lessened. Don’t get me wrong — I think the Hellboy and BPRD stories are great, tightly-crafted plots. They’re just not as good as these short stories.
Actually, I’ll go so far as to wonder why this isn’t hailed as one of the best collections ever. If someone like Paul Pope or Brandon Graham had released this book, I think people would still be going crazy about it. (And maybe people are going crazy about it and I’m just out of the loop.)
Anyway, the titular story is one of the funniest comics I’ve ever read. Here is a page:
That’s a story on its own. Like I mentioned in my Abe Sapien review, there’s a relentless rhythm to a Mignola story, and that’s in full force here. The “RUNG RUNG RUNG” of the death zeppelin’s engine strums behind the page like an ominous bass line. The lettering and the positioning of the figures lead you perfectly across the page, even when you’re supposed to read (unnaturally) right to left. Here is my bad diagram:
And every page is that good! After “Screw-On Head,” there’s a charming and heartbreaking story about friendship (between a snake and a wizard), a violent and baffling folk tale (baffling in the way that all true folk tales are), a sad story about how our fates are often decided by people with more power than us (only it’s about puppets and the devil), and a couple galleries of great single images.
I don’t know if my critical abilities work when talking about this comic. It’s just so good.