In Review: Hellboy: Krampusnacht

A must-read for those who want to walk a dark path this holiday season.

The covers: A trio of covers to track down on this one-shot. The Regular cover is by interior artist and colorist Adam Hughes. In the snowy woods, Hellboy holds a glowing skull as a female ghost lurches over his back to point forward. Behind the pair is the head of Krampus, whose crimson eyes foreshadow horrors. Outstanding. The Variant cover is by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart. Hellboy has got a smoke in his mouth as he looks at the reader. Behind him is a torn card featuring an image of Krampus. Below that is a fallen statue of a girl surrounded by several skulls. A giant goat’s head is in profile behind all, while some slight snow falls. The eerie blue atmosphere suits this image handsomely. There is also a Pencil Variant cover of the Regular cover showing all of Hughes’s work before it was colored. As with the other two covers, a must-own. Overall grades: All A

The story: Making his way through some woods in Austria in the winter of 1975, Hellboy encounters a female ghost asking him to save her boy. He goes to the ghost, but she’s disappeared; only a toy elephant remains in the snow. Going further he spies a house glowing warmly from a fire within. The door opens and an old man recognizes Hellboy, while the title character recognizes Wilhelm Schulze. The cozy quarters are set for an intimate dinner between Schulze and the title character, but Hellboy has no intention in partaking of the man’s generosity, not after what happened at the church the other day which the reader soon sees. Mike Mignola starts this tale in the most disarming way: a quiet snowy setting, a ghost seeking help, and a kindly old man. If the reader has read any of Mignola’s other works, they know this won’t last, and it doesn’t. Schulze reveals his true identity on Page 10 and things quickly go south for the hero. What Krampus wants is surprising and doesn’t come easily. How the battle concludes is a great surprise but wholly fitting for both characters. The final two pages of the tale sum up what’s occurred for an iconic Hellboy character who wasn’t present for the action, with the final image being surprisingly sweet. There are three pages of Christmas Memories that follow this tale and they’re cute, funny, and heartbreaking. This is a great Holiday tale twisted about by Mignola. Overall grade: A

The art: Adam Hughes is not only the artist on this issue but also the colorist. The woods that Hellboy tramps through are wonderful and provide the perfect backdrop for the gorgeous ghost that speaks. She looks like something out of a dream, and this dreamlike tone continues when Hellboy spies Schulze’s house. The old man looks like the perfect host, lit with some warm oranges and yellows from the fire in the living room. He’s angelic at the bottom of Page 4 compared to the fiery red Hellboy in the same panel. The senior’s demeanor is proven untrue with the terrific panel at the top of 5 which is horror frozen on the page. Schulze is perfect in the second panel on 7, looking delightful as he says something terrible; that panel is my favorite of the book for art and text. The flashback on 8 and 9 is a creeper, with the coloring making the shock stronger. These pages lead to a full-page splash on 10 that reveals who Schulze really is and it’s a nightmare. The action on 12 – 15 are excellent, with the two titans battling, glass breaking, and blood flying. Just as it seems this issue will end as a slugfest, the story goes in a different direction and Hughes gets to create some truly deviant designed characters, whose coloring increased their ick factor considerably. The setting on the penultimate page is lush and decorated appropriately for the season, but attention must be drawn to the character whose head and one hand are on the far fight — he looks amazing! For all the horror that happens in this issue, the final panel of the issue is sweet. The three pages of Christmas Memories are fantastic, showing Hellboy in three very different settings: the first photo is classic Americana, the second funny, and the last a gut punch pulled off sensationally, given than neither character’s face is shown. There are also six pages of sketches to show how characters and pages were designed. All are a terrific peek into the creative process. Overall grade: A

The letters: Clem Robins is the letterer for this issue and creates a song, dialogue, scene settings (all three are the same font), sounds, and yells. I like that when the female ghost speaks her dialogue is smaller than the rest of the characters’ speech. This slight visual change makes it seem like her words are whispered. There’s also some smaller text when a character is about to lose consciousness and another discovers something surprising. Both instances make the reading experience real for the reader. The sounds are flat out awesome, with gigantic crashes, smashes, and punches making the violence bigger. Robins, always an ace, continues to be a superior letterer. Overall grade: A 

The final line: Ghosts and Krampus complicate Hellboy’s life in this outstanding one-shot. The story is horrific, funny, and sweet. The art will kill you with its beautiful monstrosities. A must-read for those who want to walk a dark path this holiday season. Overall grade: A

To order a print copy go to https://www.tfaw.com/Comics/Profile/Hellboy-Krampusnacht___553497?utm_source=darkhorse&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=darkhorse_buy&utm_term=buy+Hellboy%3A+Krampusnacht

To order a digital copy go to https://digital.darkhorse.com/books/c1f9a568b4c84fdf8b5a1d603b2d8553/hellboy-krampusnacht

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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