"Hellboy: Krampusnacht" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Mike Mignola
Illustrated by Adam Hughes
2017, 36 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on December 20th, 2017
The past few years have seen a reemergence of the evil Christmas figure, Krampus. There have been a ton of stories and even a few movies as of late featuring the demonic entity that steals children during the holidays. Now in this one-shot, he meets Hellboy, which is so very fitting. Big Red finds himself in a wooded area a few days before Christmas. It's here he meets the ghost of a woman who asks him to save her son. This leads him to the home of an old man who turns out to be the Krampus. Of course, since this is a Hellboy comic, a fight breaks out.
The elderly man, affectionately called “Grampus” in the back matter of the book, is creepy from the get-go. Artist Adam Hughes, playing in the Mignolaverse for the first time, brings an unsettling amount of detail to the man's appearance. Every wrinkle is highlighted, revealing all the years he's seen, like rings in a tree.
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You know that this guy is up to no good, so it's only a matter of time before things go bad. He seems cordial enough, but there's the unmistakable feeling of dread that comes through in every Hellboy comic. We see a glimpse of it as Grampus shares the truth about what happened to the boy Hellboy is looking for, although we don't see the specifics. Much is implied, particularly with two back-to-back panels. The first shows the young lad screaming in terror as a clawed hand reaches for him. The next shows his toy falling to the floor with a large chain coming up from below. It's shaded in a violent red, making your mind fill in the gaps of this mayhem.
That is unsettling enough, but while that is happening, Grampus transforms into his full form and it is absolutely terrifying. No humanity remains in this beast. It's like a goat that learned to walk on two legs, which is totally unnatural and chilling. It stares with blood red eyes that cut through the shadows. Its fur is matted and filthy. Large teeth jut out of its open jaw as its long tongue spirals outward in anticipation. This is the Krampus in all its horrific glory.
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As with most tales from writer Mike Mignola, there's a twist to Hellboy: Krampusnacht. It's not a straightforward battle against a monster. There's more nuance to it. Big Red is assisted by the next world and all the souls Krampus has taken. The final blow reveals the truth behind the creature that explains its existence.
After the story, there are a number of pin-ups of Hellboy and his colleagues at the B.P.R.D. enjoying the holidays over the years. This is a nice touch that reminds you of how close these people were at one point. They were like family. There are also some sketches from Hughes as he worked on the designs for the characters and some layouts.
Hellboy: Krampusnact is an awesome horror read for the holidays. It keeps the spirit alive while also delivering some great terror. Hughes is a welcome addition to the Mignolaverse with gorgeous artwork that maintains the dark aesthetic we've come to expect from this world. I'd love to see what he could do with some of the other characters.