Hilda and the Mountain King – Luke Pearson

4 out of 5

Luke Pearson completes (?) his Hilda tales with, fittingly, her biggest adventure yet… an adventure arguably too big for one book. This bursting-at-the-seams nature isn’t new to the series, but earlier books had a more organic approach to it that either made some of the sneaked in details feel like fun story additions, or the way storylines would slam together ultimately satisfying – a pleasant surprise. Mountain King is when the balance tips a bit and such affectations come across as after-the-fact; stuffed in in the only spaces available. It really could be two or even three books: one covering the aftermath of last volume’s cliffhanger; one exploring the newly formed (to our perspective) Troll Brigade, the flashlight-armed crew who’s out to protect Trolberg; and one exploring the truly inventive troll lore / history that explores the creatures, and their relation to the town. All of this stuff is a lot of fun, and the story experiences no slowdown as a result of mushing it all together, but it’s also so potentially rich that when you get to a series of panels that just rockets through some exposition, you can’t help but wish that Pearson had allowed for some decompression, especially when the cut-and-paste of information feels, as suggested, almost like we missed something earlier.

Visually, though, this book (no pun intended) rocks. All of Pearson’s skills are fully sharpened: having settled into a slick, animated look for a couple books now, that consistency is maintained, and Luke can spread out to experimenting with some crazy panel layouts that really escalate those portions of the tale, with the coloring issues noted last book “fixed” as well – every page and panel feels honed to match what’s needed for that page or panel, both individually and together.

There are no extra lore pages this time around, or a mention of a next book. It’s an acceptable place for Hilda’s stories to end, seeing as how we started with trolls and could be said to end with them here, but the world is also certainly rich enough to allow for plenty more exploration, and I’m sure many of us would love to come back for that…