Sunday, 24 October 2010

Review - The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects HC


This slim hardcover collects Mike Mignola’s ‘the Amazing Screw-On Head’ one-shot from 2002 plus five other short, non-Hellboy, strips by the artist, only one of which has seen print before (another is a completely redrawn, expanded version of a previously published strip and the others were drawn for this volume).

‘The Amazing Screw-On Head’ is about a 19th century robot called Screw-On Head who is asked by Abraham Lincoln to recover ‘the Kalakistan Fragment’, a piece of untranslatable parchment that has been stolen from ‘the Museum of Dangerous Books and Paper’ by the villainous Emperor Zombie. The Kalakistan Fragment supposedly reveals the location of a ‘melon-sized jewel’ that may or may not allow the possessor to conquer the world, and although the fragment is supposedly untranslatable, Emperor Zombie is a master of ancient languages. With the aid of his two assistants, Mr Groin and Mr Dog (who is a dog), Screw-On Head sets off in pursuit of the ancient parchment and along the way we encounter a turnip that contains a parallel universe, a demon / monster of some kind, three horrible old women and a monkey. While this isn’t a Hellboy tale, it is very much on the same lines – complete with a punch-up between Screw-On Head and the demon / monster – but with a greater emphasis on humour. It is an odd, amusing, and beautifully drawn tale that reads very quickly but is no less enjoyable for that.

The other stories here – all loosely connected – are similarly light-hearted and enjoyable. ‘Abu Gung and the Beanstalk’ is a ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ type of thing, as the title suggests, and features a demon that looks very much like Hellboy (but with long, droopy ears and a pot belly); ‘The Magician and the Snake’ is an Eisner Award-winning story written by Mignola’s daughter (when she was 7 years old); ‘The Witch and Her Soul’ is about a witch’s deal with the Devil and some evil puppets; ‘The Prisoner of Mars’, probably my favourite of these ‘curious objects’, is a Victorian gentleman’s recollection of his execution for murder, his spirit’s subsequent adventures on Mars, and his return to life; and ‘In the Chapel of Curious Objects’, as Mignola himself admits in the afterword, isn’t really a story at all, just three pages of creepy panels that help to tie the stories in the book together.

At a mere 104 pages, including a sketchbook section and quite a lot of single page illustrations between stories, this was an extremely quick read. I must have read the whole book in an hour or so, and I am usually quite a slow reader. Still, I’m not really complaining, as I liked it a lot, Mignola’s art was fantastic throughout – there is little point in going into any great detail about the art, as if you have ever read a Hellboy comic before you will know exactly the sort of standard of work to expect – and it was quite cheap, too.

This has a recommended retail price of £13.50 / $17.99 but I bought my copy on Amazon for £8.78 including postage (it has since gone down in price to £7.78). And as I also used a £5.00 Amazon gift voucher that I got for agreeing to receive emails from some evil marketing company (all of which go straight into my junk folder – hee hee!), it only ended up costing me £3.78, which isn’t bad at all for a hardcover book. Once again, in the war on overpriced comics and graphic novels, victory is mine!

2 comments:

  1. My Dad gets lots of £5 Amazon vouchers from marketing companies and then sells them on to me for a small discount of their value. At the moment I'm trying to negotiate a better deal with him. He's a tough negotiator though as he claims he's going to use what vouchers he has for Christmas presents.

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  2. I actually got a £6.00 Amazon voucher but as I had to pay £1.00 to join this company's mailing list, I considered it a £5.00 voucher (I would link to the company here but it was an offer they only had on that day).

    Your dad sounds quite shrewd. Still, I wouldn't mind getting Amazon vouchers for Christmas.

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