Friday 30 August 2019

ReadItDaddy's Graphic Novel of the Week - Week Ending 30th August 2019: "Hilda and the Mountain King" by Luke Pearson (Flying Eye Books / NoBrow Press)

All good things come to an end. Sometimes the greatest things, and if you're the sort of person who doesn't like it when our "Book of the Week" reviews go in a bit heavy with the praise, you might just want to bail out now.

Because "Hilda and the Mountain King", the final graphic novel in Luke Pearson's mesmerising and absolutely vital series is drawing to a close in possibly the most perfect way possible.

We're anxious not to spoil anything for new fans who might have just joined in with the Hilda love, off the back of the hugely successful and universally acclaimed Netflix "Hilda" series (which was, to be quite honest, absolutely a zillion times better than we could have possibly hoped for). But in the last book we were left on one heck of a cliffhanger.

Spoilers ahead folks...if you haven't read "Hilda and the Stone Forest" time to look away....NOW!

Right at the end of the last book Hilda woke up dazed, but realising something rather strange had happened. Hilda was no longer human - in fact Hilda had become...a TROLL!

In her new-found body Hilda is at first horrified, but soon realises that being a Troll isn't all that bad after all - in fact it's almost like getting a whole new raft of superpowers. She feels strong, she can leap tall pine trees in a single bound, and her roar fills the forest.

Most importantly Hilda begins to realise that Trolls aren't just the lonely denizens of the mountains and forests. They have a whole community, and that community is under serious threat.

Meanwhile her poor long-suffering mum has to put up with a rather strange house guest, a baby troll who is even grumpier and moodier (and far more destructive) than Hilda herself!

As you've probably come to expect from Luke, this is a deliciously dark tale, and we're soon introduced to a new set of antagonists - there are forces afoot led by the mysterious arch-mansplaining Ahlberg (a fantastic character who feels like the comic embodiment of every Brexit-voting Gammon you've ever had the misfortune to run across on Twitter) who absolutely will not stop until he and his 'safety patrol' have wiped Trolls from the face of the earth once and for all - including any Troll-shaped girls who just happen to get in the way.

It's up to Hilda to save the day!

We've read this. We've read it again. We've read it so many times just savouring every single morsel, clinging on to it, trying to stave off the inevitable - and the end of a story that, without any exagerration, has become the graphic novel series that I shove in the face of anyone (teachers or otherwise) who claim that comics and graphic novels aren't "proper" reading.

We will, of course, have the second series of the Netflix show to look forward to - giving Hilda a whole new world to play in and expand in, and perhaps there may be the promise of new exciting stories kicking off in the accompanying middle grade novels. But with this, the very last and easily the best of the Hilda graphic novels, we really will have a huge Hilda-shaped hole in our lives if there really aren't to be any more.

Then again, there's the prospect that we have whatever Luke cooks up next to look forward to. Seeing his sterling work and involvement with "Adventure Time" fills us with confidence that, whatever he does, it's going to be awesome. For now though, the Hilda series stands as one of the best ways to show kids that comics aren't just about prat-falls and pies in the face. They can be truly inspirational, glorious and just so durned vital too.

Sum this book up in a sentence: Absolutely unmissably essential reading, and if you've never read or encountered a Hilda book before, we almost envy you, get started with book one and work your way through to this and you'll be experiencing some of the best comic book action on the planet - for kids or grown ups!

"Hilda and the Mountain King" by Luke Pearson is out on 1st September 2019, published by Flying Eye Books / NoBrow Press (kindly supplied for review).