Mike Mignola is most well known as the creator of the Hellboy series, which I find a little too silly for me. However, I really admire the artist that partners with him on the inside pages (Mignola himself illustrates most of the covers and I like his style, too). So, I was interested in checking out some of his non-Hellboy work. I previously read, hugely enjoyed, and reviewed Baltimore Volume 1: The Plague Ships here, and just recently remembered to track down the now-released sequels.
Baltimore Volume 2: The Curse Bells
This volume goes a bit darker than the previous one, exploring how men can become monsters themselves through their obsessions. I found it gripping, but not exactly pleasant to read. What I did enjoy, though, was that the story expands more on the alternate history of this world, confirming that it is set just barely post-WWI, with foreshadowing of WWII. It also has vampire nuns.
Baltimore Volume 3: A Passing Stranger and Other Stories
I was a little hesitant over this one because short stories can go either way, but I really liked it. Mignola uses the shorts to really focus on the characters themselves. We get backstory on two main villains from both previous volumes, and quite a nice look at Baltimore’s struggle to stay moral in his own obsessive quest. It made some of the ickiness from volume 2 more palatable.
The Amazing Screw-on Head and Other Curious Objects
This book is very odd. I believe it is really just Mignola playing around with stories and drawings that he knows won’t hold up to a full graphic novel treatment, but he is so successful that the publisher figured fans would probably be entertained. I would agree, too, that this is probably just for the true fans that want a comprehensive collection of Mignola’s works. The titular Amazing Screw-On Head is literally a sentient head that can be screwed onto a variety of mechanical bodies and does sort of vague battle in service of President Lincoln. Even the backpage blurb didn’t seem quite what to make of it: “If you read only one comic about severed robot heads fighting…I dunno, some damn thing or the other at Abraham Lincoln’s behest, that comic should be The Amazing Screw-On Head.” —Comic Book Resources.
I will say that my favorite vignette in the collection was The Magician and the Snake, written by Mignola’s seven-year-old daughter. It was no less cohesive a story than the rest, and had a very charming description of love and friendship that continues even after death. So, I guess what I am saying is I can take or leave Mike Mignola on this book, but I quite recommend Katie Mignola.
WitchFinder: In the Service of Angels
Mignola is back to what I like best: supernatural period pieces. WitchFinder features Sir Edward Grey, recently knighted by Queen Victoria for hush-hush deeds done in service of the crown. In this volume, though, he is tracking a demon brought out of the excavation of an ancient Egyptian tomb and made corporeal in London.
It has a similar feel to Baltimore, though a different historical period and Grey is different enough in character (not quite as hardened and still able to be smitten by a comely medium) that it is not simply a retread. The illustrations are lovely, as usual, and the story interesting, but the pacing was a bit slow. It ends a bit abruptly with only partial resolution, and though there is a second volume out, I’m not sure I’m going to follow up with it. (Except, that upon further research, i.e. amazon description, the second volume takes place in the American West and I love a wild west story.)