Monday, January 29, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #29: Mr. Higgins Comes Home by Mike Mignola and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell

The world might not have expected a homage to The Fearless Vampire Hunters. The world may not have needed a homage to The Fearless Vampire Hunters. The world may not have wanted a homage to The Fearless Vampire Hunters. But the world got one.

Mike Mignola has been making comics about vampires (and similarly ghoulish monsters) and the people who stop them (most usually, with punches from a massively oversized red fist) for close to thirty years now. And I suppose he can't be serious all the time.

Mr. Higgins Comes Home is not entirely serious. It's not entirely comic, either, but it falls more on the goofball side of the ledger than the creepy side. Some of that is due to artist Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, whose work is more stylized (in a way that feels European to me, like a Donjon volume) and who uses brighter colors than usual for a Mignola story. And some of that is due to the story itself, which is more matter-of-fact and less ominous than Mignola's usual. This isn't quite Mignola parodying himself, but it feels a little like the Wes Anderson version of Mignola: straight-faced but not quite right.

So we have Count Golga and his Countess, in their massive Carpathian castle on the eve of Walpurgis, when all of the vampires who are anyone will arrive for the big annual celebration. And we have the two vampire hunters, who do not look overly dangerous, just arriving in the local village for a bit of staking. Both are wary of the other; both think the other is a worth opponent. We the readers may feel otherwise.

And then there's Mr. Higgins. He and his wife were previous victims of the Count: Mary became one of the usual blue-faced vampiresses, and her husband is distraught and wants revenge. He has become...something different, which we see as the book goes on. He does not really go home in the conventional sense in the course of this book, but, then again, didn't a great man once said that we never could go home again? Maybe that explains it.

Mr. Higgins is pleasant and fun, but I can't help but see it as another pierce of evidence that Mignola needs to do something else for a while. He's been doing supernatural mystery, almost exclusively in the Hellboy-verse, since the early '90s. I suggest that he needs to do something substantially different: a space epic, an espionage caper, a noir mystery. This particular well is not drawing like it used to.

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