By Jonathan Edwards
Mr. Higgins Comes Home surprised me in a couple of ways. First and foremost, by just how short it is for an OGN. The story itself is only forty-nine pages long, just barely over double the length of a normal-sized issue. What’s more, I’ve seen a handful of single issues come out that match or even exceed that page length. I mean, Sacred Creatures #1 boasted a whopping sixty-six pages, so it’s honestly more surprising that Mignola and Johnson-Cadwell gave this one the full hardcover treatment rather than a mere one-shot. The second big surprise is the plot. See, the book’s vampiric premise may be a tried and true one, but it’s the execution that really sets this one apart. Mignola is well-enough aware of the expectations for where this type of story is going to go that he is able to lean into it somewhat during the setup before several curveballs in a row once it really gets going. And, he does it with such economic storytelling that there’s not a single wasted nor excessive moment, something that really goes to show the breadth of his skill as a writer and creator.
We begin someplace in Romania (evident from the description “between the Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea) with J. T. Meinhardt, a fairly typical Van Helsing-type vampire hunter. After a brief run-in with a Nosferatu-esque vampire, we learn that he and his partner Knox are there to meet with the eponymous Mr. Higgins, who they hope to help them seek out and slay Count Golga, and a number of other vampires, the morning after they convene for their annual Walpurgis Night celebration. Mr. Higgins, as it turns out, was turned into a werewolf by Golga and his Countess many years prior, so Meinhardt reasons he would be invaluable to helping them navigate the Count’s castle (thus, ‘take him home’). And in return, Meinhardt promising to end his suffering by shooting him with a classic silver bullet. However, things very quickly don’t go according to plan and only deviates further and further.
Now, it goes without saying that a number of classic horror elements are on display here, but the overall tone and content isn’t particularly dark, macabre, or even horrific. I don’t know if I’d go as far as calling it ‘lighthearted,’ but it is an amusing read. It even ends with the last line of dialog in the penultimate panel being a punchline. Granted, in his dedication, Mignola does specifically mention Hammer Horror films and the horror comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers, so I suppose it’s really not surprising that he opted to take it this route. But, it’s also not to be inherently expected from the cover, also done by Mignola, in all of its moody and gothic glory.
As for the interior art, I grew fond of Warwick Johnson-Cadwell’s style while reading and reviewing Helena Crash, and I think he does a pretty good job here. It’s distinct from Mignola’s as well as what’s typical for, let’s be honest, the majority of Victorian-era vampire stories. Heavy shadows and evocative colors for a bright and diverse palette. Yet, he integrates this into his designs to make a clear distinction between humans and vampires. The heroes are all given earth tones. Browns, tans, and greens dominate both the skin color and wardrobes of Meinhardt, Knox and Mr. Higgins. Count Golga’s, presumably, human servants are similar but all wear red. Whereas, the vampires are almost nothing but pale and cool colors. Count and Countess Golga both have purple complexions and constantly wear light blue. The attendees of the Walpurgis Night celebration are similar, introducing teals, sickly greens, turquoises, and indigos with the only outlier being red, but that’s already connected pretty exclusively to them as the color of their eyes and, again, what their servants wear. It’s a really neat way to give vampire designs a bit of fresh air while also harkening to older folklore, where vamps were commonly depicted as having purple skin from all of their bloodsucking.
I thoroughly enjoyed my readthrough of Mr. Higgins Comes Home. If it seems like I gave away a lot in this review, I promise I only really touched on setup that happens in maybe the first third of the book. And with Halloween just around the corner, there’s no better time to check out its craziness for yourself. I will admit, $15 is a bit steep for the amount of content, and some distributors (Like Amazon and Barnes & Noble) list October 31st as their release date for it. But, if you can spare the cash, you should be able to find it as your LCS (I saw it at mine), and I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Mr. Higgins Comes Home
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Warwick Johnson-Cadwell
Letterer: Clem Robins
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics