Sunday, 14 November 2010

Retro Review: Champion of the Worms

Mike Mignola is now so famous as the mind behind what feels like the first truly classic modern creation in comics - Hellboy. The right hand of doom is now so recognizable and mainstream, appearing in every media from animation, video-games and two blockbuster movies directed by Guillermo del Toro, that many forget Mignola's earlier work.
Amongst these ventures, though, are some great comics that have since been almost entirely forgotten in the wake of the great BPRD franchise. In short, Hellboy is like McDonald's now...he's everywhere. I find it refreshing to take a look at Mignola explorer darker and quirkier paths on his road to superstardom.

Champion Of The Worms was released in 1997 (in fact after hellboy was created) by Dark Horse comics. This is a retro comic tale in the style of old EC horror comics and concerns a Hyperborean mummy (Azzul Gotha), who sets about sacrificing mankind to ancient worm gods...and that sounds freakin' cool. A heroic team of adventurers and scholars try to stop him, all set in an anonymous European city.

Mignola is on fine form, clearly revelling in the gothic, Lovecraftian universe that he would soon turn into his biggest property. This is European gothic fused with modern american macabre. That it all feels effortless is a sign of Mignola's visionary thumbprint. He has clearly always been comfortable with this material.

This rag-tag bunch of wierdo's and freaks fighting an equally bizarre enemy has clearly had an influence on modern comics like The Umbrella Academy (also by Dark Horse). Also Pat McEown proves a joy on art - reminiscent of Herge throughout, his Aztec flavoured decor and octopus hat (you heard me) are worth the price of admission alone.

This is such a fun, weird little book,that it really deserves your attention - especially if you're a Mignola fan. After this I need to hunt down The Amazing Screw-On Head.

for fans of: Hellboy, The Umbrella Academy, EC Comics.

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