There are few things more pleasurable for a reviewer than discovering a great cartoonist who’s been doing work for a while without your ever noticing it. So I’m very grateful for the fine folks at Nobrow/ Flying Eye Books (thanks Tucker!), who sent me a review copy of Hilda and the Black Hound.
This is the fourth in a series of all-ages graphic novels by Luke Pearson, who’s been nominated for a British Comic Award Young People’s Comic Award, and it’s easy to see why this book has been acclaimed.
Pearson creates a world for his characters that combines the ordinary and fantastic in extraordinary ways, combining a quiet, standard mother/daughter relationship with an element of magical fantasy that enchanted me and will definitely enchant children. He creates a walled town of Girl Scouts type groups, strange creatures that live in small holes in peoples’ houses, and a major menace, and does so in an easygoing, color-saturated and inventive way.
At the center of it all is elementary-school age Hilda. She’s inquisitive and caring –sometimes too caring for her own good, as she basically adopts a nisse, a sprite that lives inside peoples’ houses and steals their stuff. The nisse in your house is the reason why you can’t ever match up all your socks and can’t find that missing fork. Through the nisse, we discover all kinds of odd and wonderful aspects of Hilda’s enchanting world, which is full of moments of pure joy and pleasure.
This is all delivered by Pearson in a charmingly loose style that looks like animated cartoons. Characters have giant heads to go with their twiglike bodies; Hilda’s big red boots and giant head of light blue hair dominate the panels that she’s in, to a pleasing effect. She rules the little world that she lives in, so she should also rule the comic that features her.
Along with the human design comes delightful designs of the nisse. None of the nisse look the same as each other, and Pearson takes obvious joy in the design of each of these creatures, along with Hilda’s pet Twig, who resembles a dog crossed with a squirrel and looks completely charming.
Pearson delivers all of this in a pleasing anarchic page style. Created as a larger, European-sized graphic novel, each page is designed to dramatize its effects, with an inventiveness that helps to give this book a kinetic energy that keeps the reader turning pages in pure pleasure. There’s a terrific sequence of pages when Hilda confronts the black hound of the book’s title that are spectacularly surreal and silly.
Hilda and the Black Hound is filled with magic, in all senses of that word. Hilda is a charming lead character and the world she inhabits is tremendous fun. I hope to visit that world again soon.