"Pumpkinhead #1" Comic Review
Written by Angry Scholar
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Blacky Shepherd
Colors by Thiago Ribeiro
2018, 32 pages
Comic released on February 21st, 2018
If the Howling reboot weren’t enough to quell your lust for campy ‘80s horror in comic form, Dynamite has decided to bring back the notorious practical-effects demon Pumpkinhead to do some more of what demons do best. (Kill people, obvs.) As with The Howling, Pumpkinhead appears to be a sequel rather than a reboot judging from the presence of a handful of characters from the original film.
In this incarnation, Pumpkinhead has been summoned to the town of Wrightson Mills to avenge the hit-and-run deaths of a pair of children. Sheriff Andi Ferris is struggling to solve the case and, hopefully, earn some cred with the local hill folk, who seem not to have much respect for the law. (Andi, who is a person of color, comments that they don’t like her specifically.) A local drunk named Bunt—who Pumpkinhead fans will remember as the kid who guided Lance Henriksen’s character to see the witch Haggis in the first film—informs the sheriff that vengeance is coming for the people who killed the kids. Naturally, being the representative of naïve rationality, the sheriff doesn’t think much of this. Also naturally, we the audience know that Pumpkinhead is about to get Pumpkinheadin’.
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Blacky Shepherd’s art has an appropriately gritty, witchy quality, and Thiago Ribeiro’s colors are saturated and weird, somehow dreamlike and ethereal and simultaneously hyper-tangible, like an obsessive-compulsive person’s paint-by-numbers book. (Which I mean, believe it or not, as praise.) Writer Cullen Bunn is strong as ever. Pumpkinhead #1 could easily be an issue of Bunn’s (excellent) Harrow County—although, much like the film, the comic feels rather abrupt. Both rely on a hit-and-run death as the impetus for summoning the demon of vengeance, and both go from zero to demon in an extremely short time. In fact, the comic’s beginning is nearly identical to the movie, which is clearly deliberate, but feels perhaps a bit too on the nose. On the other hand, it’s helpful to have a refresher on the Pumpkinhead mythos. The comic does promise to tell us a bit more about Haggis, the witch responsible for summoning Pumpkinhead, and treats us to a few pages of “prequel” in the form of a flashback to Haggis’ youth.
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I thought I’d seen the Pumpkinhead film before, but I watched it prior to writing this review and it all felt new, so maybe I hadn’t. (The original, or one of its sequels, was always on television growing up, so I’d at least seen pieces of it.) The film still holds up, in a weird way. It isn’t good, but it’s respectably not bad. It’s got a complete narrative without any major details omitted, and sticks firmly to its own mythos. (It’s also stunningly tame, even by horror standards of its day. It’s rated R, but feels like a hard PG.) The comic promises to flesh out the rather threadbare narrative of the film, and I’m interested to see how Bunn and company decide to accomplish this.