Mike Mignola’s latest darkly comedic comic collection, The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects, brings together decapitated robot heads, parallel universe root vegetables, monkey kings, kite-flying snakes, and Hellboy’s pudgier (and stupider) cousin in six cutely clever one-shots.
You could, if you were so inclined, look at The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects in two ways. It could be a frivolous little interstitial between Hellboy: The Crooked Man and Others and the still-just-a-figment-of-Guillermo-del-Toro’s-imagination Hellboy 3. Or it could be hilarious collection of six brief tales related to absolutely nothing else and united solely by their peculiar and undeniably unique natures. Either way, Screw-On Head is fun, fast, and unlike anything you have ever read before.
The main story is about a robot head that screws onto replacement metal bodies like a light bulb. He’s accompanied by his Alfred, the weird manservant inexplicably named Mister Groin and a taxidermied dog less-inexplicably named Mister Dog. Head is charged by Abraham Lincoln to stop the power-mad Emperor Zombie and his cronies Doctor Snap and an unnamed shape-shifting vampire from finding the “fabulous melon-sized jewel” of Gung The Magnificent and trying to succeed where Pinky and The Brain so often failed.
The remaining “curious objects” are much shorter but just as satisfying. Abu Gung and the Beanstalk reworks Jack and the Beanstalk with an ending that relies more on Gung’s wit than sheer dumb luck. The Magician and the Snake was thought up by Mignola’s seven year-old daughter Katie one day at school. Even after fleshing it out it still feels like the rambling illogical logic of a very imaginative child, and I mean that as the highest compliment. It is a fairy tale about love and loyalty and accepting responsibility for one’s actions. And monkey kings.
In The Witch and Her Soul a deal-making devil comes to claim a witch’s soul and encounters her sad little puppets, while The Prisoner of Mars is both a ghost story and an alien invasion/body snatching/soul stealing story that twists in on itself in such a fasion that it ends in a completely unexpected way. Finally, In The Chapel of Curious Objects, everything and nothing happen all at once and it is beautiful and entrancing and ends far too soon.
Mignola’s comics have always had enough humor in them to soften the violence and evilness of some of the more wretched characters. Not that they weren’t still terrifying (The Crooked Man is easily one of the most frightening comic villains ever created), but pain, fear, and philosophy were always at the heart of his stories. Screw-On Head is none of those things, yet it doesn’t suffer for it. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is 104 pages of light-hearted entertainment. The fables are laugh-out-loud funny, heart-achingly sweet, and provokingly creative, with two entries functioning more like silent films than comics.
With each new Mignola-helmed comic I find myself telling everyone how great this one is, how it blows everything he’s done before out of the water, how impressive and rich his artwork and stories are, and how there’s no way he can ever do anything better than this. But when I say he has outdone himself with this one, I really do mean it this time. The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects is far and away my favorite Mignola, and in my top five favorite comics ever. And coming from an avowed and unabashed Hellboy fanatic that’s saying something.
[Still interested? You can read Greg Manchess’s interview with Amazing Screw-On Head colorist Dave Stewart here on Tor.com.]
Alex Brown is an archivist in training, reference librarian by day, writer by night, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare…