A perfect seasonal gift for any and all horror obsessives (is there a Halloween equivalent of the stocking filler?), this short, sweet comic is a welcome return to solo-penned stories from Hellboy creator and all-round industry legend Mike Mignola. While the expanded Hellboy universe is still going strong, Mignola has favoured co-writing various spin-offs and side projects ranging from Abe Sapien and Lobster Johnson to Hellboy & The BPRD with collaborators such as Scott Allie and Chris Roberson. Here, just over a year since concluding Hellboy In Hell, he’s back in the writer’s chair, working closely with up-and-coming British artist Warwick Johnson Cadwell.
And what a terrific tale this is. Reminiscent in equal parts of early Hellboy stories and the charmingly barmy The Amazing Screw-On Head, Mr Higgins Comes Home is a self-contained slice of genre brilliance that revels in the tried and tested tropes of horror fiction. The twist here, though, is that Mignola has taken a vacation from the folkoric and Gothic inspirations that he baked into the Hellboy universe in favour of the much more playful, even campy, tones of 60s and 70s British horror cinema, in particular the work of Hammer Films.
A short introductory note makes it clear – ‘this one owes everything to… all those Draculas, Brides of Dracula, Twins Of Evil, Captain Kronos, etc.’ – but this isn’t a subtle salute, it’s a full-blown send-up. Vampire hunter Professor JT Meinhardt and his companion Mr Knox are on the trail of the dreaded Count of Castle Golga. Their hunt takes them to a village beyond the Carpathian Mountains in the days leading up to Walpurgis Night, and into the life of Mr Higgins, a sad old soul whose history with the Count might hold the key to putting an end to his diabolical eternal existence – but what starts as a simple plan soon takes an unexpected turn.
Mignola’s writing is top-notch, effortlessly riffing on vampire lore while laying the groundwork for a story that is by turns melancholic and surprising, but the revelation here is in the work of his chosen collaborator. A British small-press stalwart for some years, Warwick Johnson Cadwell is finally breaking through to larger publishers with work on Titan’s Solid State Tank Girl and IDW’s Helena Crash, and it’s a joy to see his scrappy and angular figurework bring buoyancy to an already sprightly script. His stylised approach to form and loose way with physical proportions perfectly suits a tale filled with elongated shadows, monstrous features and exaggerated personalities, cleverly complementing both the book’s horror and humour.
At 56 pages, Mr Higgins Comes Home is more of a morsel than the saga-length stories Hellboy fans have grown accustomed to of late, but this droll and distinctive book is a delightful addition to Mignola’s vast library, and a handy introduction to the prowess and promise of Warwick Johnson Cadwell.