Mike Mignola

Frankenstein Underground 3 (May 2015)

Frankenstein Underground #3This issue brings the Creature to an underground city, which he–in a delirious state–thinks is Hell. This delirious state also leads to some fight scenes, which Stenbeck rushes through. There’s some better action later on in the comic, but on a grand scale. Stenbeck can’t seem to handle the one on one fight scene, which is too bad.

Mignola’s story stalls out pretty soon after the Creature finds out there are reasoning men living in the underworld too. Then there’s a lengthy expository monologue from the lead reasoning man. Mignola enjoys the pseudo-history lesson and his enthusiasm makes it interesting to read. But it doesn’t really take the comic anywhere.

And the comic goes out on what should be a rather significant cliffhanger but it’s not because Mignola rushed through areas where he should have been foreshadowing better.

It’s okay, but it’s losing ground way too fast.

CREDITS

Writer, Mike Mignola; artist, Ben Stenbeck; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Frankenstein Underground 2 (April 2015)

Frankenstein Underground #2Besides the art–I mean, who doesn’t want to see Frankenstein’s monster fight a dinosaur–there’s not much going for this issue of Frankenstein Underground.

The villains do villainous things for a page, but not too villainous. Just plotting villainous and kind of evil. Then they’re gone and the story jumps to the monster going into an inner Earth, full of dinosaurs and cavemen.

And giant squids. Because it’s not just Edgar Rice Burroughs, it’s got some Jules Verne going for it too.

It’s kind of okay, Stenbeck’s art makes it work out. Like I said, the Frankenstein Monster versus monsters. I think that idea was even a Toho movie. And Stenbeck’s art is classy.

Notice how much I repeating myself? It’s because Mignola didn’t write enough story for a fourth of a comic book, forget about a full length one.

This issue is a pretty waste of one’s time.

CREDITS

Writer, Mike Mignola; artist, Ben Stenbeck; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Frankenstein Underground 1 (March 2015)

Frankenstein Underground #1With the first issue of Frankenstein Underground, writer Mike Mignola signals something special about the comic. He gets how to write the Creature. He understands how he needs the Creature to function in the story. For comics, it might not be a huge development, but for the Frankenstein Monster as a iconic figure? Well, his icon’s always getting tarnished.

The art, from Ben Stenbeck, helps a lot. There’s an enthusiasm in the quirks of Mignola’s script–whether the flashbacks or the setting–and it comes across to the reader. Underground feels special, even in the scenes with the plotting villain, just because he’s plotting against the Creature.

There are occasional–subtle–nods to other Frankenstein adaptations, but Mignola’s setup for his Creature’s story is an excellent one. The issue ends on an “end of act one” cliffhanger so what he and Stenbeck come up with next remains to be seen.

CREDITS

Writer, Mike Mignola; artist, Ben Stenbeck; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Swamp Thing Annual 5 (June 1989)

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Neil Gaiman sure does think he’s an inventive writer. The third person narration of the annual’s feature is exceptionally annoying but damn if Gaiman doesn’t write good dialogue. He tries too hard to show he’s familiar with Swamp Thing characters and situations, but when he’s got Chester sitting down and talking, it works. And Gaiman’s aloof, drunken secret agent guy is hilarious.

Gaiman’s writing doesn’t actually matter very much, however. The artwork from Richard Piers Rayner, Mike Hoffman and Kim DeMulder is so lovely, Gaiman could write just about anything. He’s inexplicably got Firestorm showing up for a scene and, while there’s a funny punchline to it, he must have just wanted him there because Rayner draws him so beautifully. The art is simply breathtaking.

There’s a backup with Floronic Man–Mike Mignola illustrates. It’s annoyingly over-written too and not as pretty as the feature, but it’s not bad.

CREDITS

Brothers; writer, Neil Gaiman; pencillers, Richard Piers Rayner and Mike Hoffman; inker, Kim DeMulder. Shaggy God Stories; writer, Gaiman; artist, Mike Mignola. Colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Tim Harkins; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Ka-Zar the Savage 28 (October 1983)

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Mike Carlin takes over the writing reins and does a fine job. He handles Shanna’s personal crisis well, though he doesn’t stick with it as long as Jones would have. And Carlin’s Ka-Zar is a far more assured protagonist than Jones’s. It might help this issue’s Ka-Zar has been maturing the last twenty-seven issues.

Another Mike–Mignola–inks Gil this issue and the result is mixed. Mignola sharpens Gil’s pencils, giving them a good amount of shadow, but he also removes some of the life. Ka-Zar looks boring, even though it’s full of action.

Carlin’s big problem is tying everything together, something Jones had to leave the Savage Land to avoid. This issue seems to kick off a longer arc where the entire Savage Land cast reunites, including the bad guys.

It’s a good comic book, but I’m a little wary without Jones at the helm.

The Amazing Screw-On Head (2006, Chris Prynoski)

Casting Paul Giamatti is a great idea, except when you get someone even more dynamic than him (it’s difficult, but possible) in a supporting role. Especially if it’s just Giamatti’s voice and you’re putting him up against David Hyde Pierce. Giamatti does fine for a while in The Amazing Screw-On Head, but then Pierce shows up and runs away with it. It doesn’t help Giamatti’s character is a stuffy, proper guy (albeit with a metal head and a variety of different robotic bodies), which gives Pierce all the hilarious dialogue.

The animation is all good—the overall design is what’s important and it looks great. Screw-On Head is set just before the Civil War, which we don’t see, and there’s a lot of cool retro technology.

While Screw-On Head basically works, it’s more fun to look at than anything else (except waiting for whatever Pierce says next).

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chris Prynoski; screenplay by Bryan Fuller, based on the comic book by Mike Mignola; edited by David W. Foster; music by Pierpaolo Tiano; produced by Susan Norkin; released by The Sci-Fi Channel.

Starring Paul Giamatti (Screw-On Head), David Hyde Pierce (Emperor Zombie), Patton Oswalt (Mr. Groin), Corey Burton (President Abraham Lincoln / Professor Faust), Mindy Sterling (Aggie / Geraldine) and guest starring Molly Shannon (Patience the Vampire).


Dark Horse Presents 107 (March 1996)

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I’ll start with the worst—Devil Chef. Pollock threatens a second installment. He can draw, this story shows, he just choses not to. It’s an unfunny strip with a lot of details and zero charm.

On the other hand, Purcell and Mignola’s Rusty Razorciam is quite a bit of fun. Mignola’s not a good fit for sci-fi (it’s hard to tell what he’s trying to convey, action-wise, at times), but Purcell’s got an amusing set of characters. The protagonist narrates an incomplete adventure. It’s really rather nice, even with the art problems.

French’s Ninth Gland is weird and ominous. Not much happens this issue (the emphasis is on making the reader uncomfortable), but French’s art is fine; the story works.

Pope’s at a bridging point in One Trick. It’s a Paul Pope talking heads story, actually. It’s a good installment, very cinematically paced.

Geary does another inconsequential page.

CREDITS

Rusty Razorclam; story by Steve Purcell; art by Mike Mignola; lettering by Lois Buhalis. The Ninth Gland, Part Two; story and art by Renée French. The One Trick Rip-Off, Part Seven; story and art by Paul Pope; lettering by Michael Neno. Devil Chef, Part One; story and art by Jack Pollock. Humiliation and Debasement; story and art by Rick Geary. Edited by Bob Schreck and Scott Allie.

Dark Horse Presents 100 2 (August 1995)

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The opening Hellboy story has, just on the surface, one major problem. Hellboy wrote Abe a letter, the text of that letter is the story’s narration. Hellboy writes letters where he sounds like an expository narrator. How uninteresting. Then it turns out the story’s actually Hellboy’s secret origin (he’s the son of a demon and a nun). Should be interesting. Isn’t. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t have any dramatic oomph.

Campbell’s got a sort of creepy, sort of not Alec story. It’s well-done if somewhat pointless.

Apparently Dark Horse thought they needed some cartoonists in Presents so they get three. Pollock’s Devil Chef is stupid (being vulgar doesn’t make a comic strip good). Neither does ripping off Ed the Happy Clown like Musgrove does in Fat Dog Mendoza. Gregory’s Bitchy Bitch art isn’t good, but the writing works.

The issue ends on a sublime, lovely note with Pope.

CREDITS

Hellboy, The Chained Coffin; story and art by Mike Mignola; lettering by Pat Brosseau. Alec, The Snooter; story and art by Eddie Campbell. Devil Chef, The Shining; story and art by Jack Pollock. Fat Dog Mendoza, The Secret Life of Leftovers; story and art by Scott Musgrove. Bitchy Bitch, Dream On; story and art by Roberta Gregory. Yes; story and art by Paul Pope. Edited by Bob Schreck and Scott Allie.

Dark Horse Presents 100 0 (July 1995)

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This teaser for Dark Horse Presents 100 has some great stuff in it… but it also has some unbearably long entries.

Chadwick’s Concrete—though it’s always fun to read Concrete assuming the worst about humanity—goes on forever and turns out to be a prologue. It’s a little lame, though Chadwick’s art is decent.

LaBan’s Emo and Plum is relatively painless. It’s short, anyway. However Musgrove’s Fat Dog Mendoza is awful.

Paul Pope’s got a couple pages and it’s lovely (kind of an interactive discussion of Picasso). Some great figure work.

Brubaker and McEown tease their entry in 100, as does French. The Brubaker and McEown one seems a lot more compelling, with Brubaker’s writing strong even in the one page.

Then Mignola has an endless three page preview for his Hellboy story. It’s got a lot of expositional dialogue.

Still, this teaser’s better than many of the regular issues.

CREDITS

Eno and Plum; story, art and lettering by Terry LaBan. Concrete, The Artistic Impulse (excerpt); story, art and lettering by Paul Chadwick. Fat Dog Mendoza, The Secret Life of Leftovers (excerpt); story, art and lettering by Scott Musgrove. Pistacho!!; story, art and lettering by Paul Pope. Bird Dog (excerpt); story by Ed Brubaker; art by Pat McEwon. The Ninth Gland (excerpt); story, art and lettering by Renée French. Hellboy, The Chained Coffin (excerpt); story and art by Mike Mignola. Edited by Scott Allie and Bob Schreck.

Dark Horse Presents 91 (November 1994)

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You know, Mignola doing a fight scene isn’t particular impressive. In fact, Hellboy had a fairly boring finish. Mignola tries to maintain the minimalist tone for the fight and so the fight is lame. There isn’t even any resolution to the story itself. It’s just Hellboy versus a big werewolf, who may or may not turn into leaves when he dies. It’s a weak finish… somewhat harmless, but weak.

Baden has its conclusion too. It’s McCallum’s best art on the story, some really nice panels. Too bad Alexander’s script is confusing and dumb. I think it turns out the whole thing is meaningless, but maybe not. Unfortunately, the final panel threatens of a sequel.

Then there’s Blackheart. I knew Quitely had some art in this issue but I forgot and read the story thinking about the great art. It’s some lovely work. Morrison’s script’s mediocre at best–way too overdone.

CREDITS

Hellboy, The Wolves of Saint August, Part Four; story and art by Mike Mignola; lettering by Pat Brosseau; edited by Barbara Kesel. Baden, Part Three; story by Jim Alexander; art by Rob McCallum; lettering by Clem Robins. Blackheart, Part One; story by Robbie Morrison; art by Frank Quitely; lettering by Robbins. Edited by Bob Schreck and Edward Martin III.

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