Review: The Amazing Screw-On Head

Screw-On Head Cover Image (1)REVIEW: The Amazing Screw on Head and Other Curious Objects, by Mike Mignola

 When searching for way to describe Mike Mignola’s The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects, I came to the conclusion that this short graphic novel is, at the barest reduction, one of the world’s great unapologetic shrines to weirdness. It is not a cohesive whole, but, like many of Mignola’s books (notably Hellboy: the Chained Coffin and Others,) a miscellany of loosely associated short stories, whose characters occasionally overlap. The centerpiece of the collection, is, of course, “The Amazing Screw-On Head”. A plot synopsis might, perhaps, be in order, but such a thing wouldn’t necessarily be in the spirit of Screw-On Head, which offers little to no explication of it’s characters or their motives, but rather operates on a simple principle—whatever is fun shall be included.

     What you need to know is that the story features a Victorian robot who’s head can be detached and screwed on to a variety of different bodies. Said robot determines locations using a cybernetic taxidermied dog, drives a rocket, and fights a variety of adversaries, including but not limited to an army of steampunk zombies, vampires, and a giant frog-thing. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it turns out that the screw-on head is taking orders from the disembodied head of Abraham Lincoln, and we get the exquisite pleasure of seeing our sixteenth president gaze dramatically into the distance and utter the words: “Godspeed screw-on head.”

Screw On Head 2 (1)

In general all this strangeness centers around the screw-on head’s efforts to prevent the hot-air balloon-driving Emperor Zombie from recovering a magic jewel that “Gung the Magnificent” supposedly used to conquer the world in 9632 B.C. The whole thing is brought  to a nice conclusion with the lines: “At this juncture, we had hoped to present the secret origin of the screw-on head, but, as it turns out, the damn thing’s a secret, so instead we present three horrible old women and a monkey. Cheers!”

Though “Screw-On Head” is what ties the compilation together, there are several other strong pieces, notably “Abu Gung and the Beanstalk” and “The Prisoner of Mars”. The collection ends with the two-page long “In the Chapel of Curious Objects”, which ties the stories together in a way that is nothing but literary in its execution. Of course, it needs to be mentioned that one of the main reasons for enjoying the collection is Mignola’s fantastic art style. First published in 2002, the book is a beautiful example of the use of shadow that he would later become known for. Beyond that, the composition of each page is meticulously plotted, and the art of Screw-On Head surpasses even that of the early volumes in the Hellboy series.

In conclusion, whether you’re a fan of zombies, beautifully drawn illustrations, or Abe Lincoln’s  disembodied head, The Amazing Screw-On Head is worth reading.

– Caleb Kaldel

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