In Review: Pumpkinhead #1

This captures the best elements of the films while charting its own horrific path of vengeance.

The covers: A lucky seven covers for those who love irony. Kelley Jones is the artist of the A cover and it’s a bust image of the beast from its left side. Every muscle and bump in the creatures’s skin is fantastic, with its face a perfect horror. Not to mention it’s got a screaming severed head in its mouth which makes it pretty creepy. Against a dark red background, the blues of the title character and the unlucky human’s head pop out. I really like this. A photograph of Pumpkinhead is the B cover and it looks great. I’m a big fan of photo covers and this has the monster in all its glory looking as though it got the drop on a photographer. The outstretched hand in the reader’s face makes this definitely a WOW! cover. The C is by Ken Haeser and it is the clearest image of the creature on a cover. The beast is standing in a pumpkin patch under a tremendous full moon, turning to look at the reader. I love the clear shot of the beast and the setting is lusciously detailed. The colors are also solid, with the ebony used on the monster not so dark as to smother the details in its construction. The Authentix Sketch Variant is the first variant cover. It features the issue number on the left along with the publisher, at the center top it states “For each of man’s evils, a special demon exists” with the title just below. The bottom has the name of the writer and artists. This is a great way to get a one of a kind, unique cover from an artist or to get the book’s creators to sign it. I like the idea, but on its own it’s not much. The Kelley Jones Virgin Variant is the same as the A cover, just without any text. If one likes Jones (and who doesn’t?) or doesn’t want text to distract from the imagery, this is the cover for you. The Ken Haeser Black & White Incentive is the same as the B cover, sans any colors. I thought the covers was super detailed on the B, but seeing it without any colors makes me appreciate the work that went into this one all the more. The final cover is a Kelley Jones Black & White Incentive frontpiece, same as the A, though without any colors. I’ve always been impressed with Jones’s work when shown in black and white and this is flat out gorgeous. True, it shows a monster with a severed head in its maw, but it is beautiful. Overall grade: A A, B A+, C A, Authentix Sketch Variant C, Jones Virgin Variant A, Haeser Black & White Incentive A+, and Jones Black & White A

The story: On Bradley Mountain, a long time ago, Granny has taught seven young girls enough, it’s time they went out to Razorback Holler and find a grave. There they’ll find their own demon, “…’cause sure’n if ye don’t…yer demon well sure’n find you!” Poor Haggis gets pushed around by one girl, while another helps her out. Soon Haggis sees the girls have found their own graves, but she spies something much larger: a mound rising out of the ground that has a tree growing out it. She scales the structure and finds her goal. In the present, a familiar sight is seen if one is familiar with the films. Writer Cullen Bunn introduces Sheriff Andi Ferris who’s pouring over some disturbing pictures. She’s knows that one family could help her out, but they’re not talking and neither is the family that’s suffering. The reader soon learns who exactly is to blame for the death of innocents and then is introduced to the upset party, who has something terrible to ask of grown up Haggis. This issue introduces the premise, the players and their relationships, as well as the settings, and doesn’t have the titular character appear until the final page. This lets fans know that the thrills and jumps they want from the his cinematic monster will going full throttle with the next issue. With Bunn crafting this tale, I know he’ll be delivering some deadly vengeance to several denizens. I can’t wait! Overall grade: A

The art: Beside the iconic monster, one strong element of the Pumpkinhead films are the settings and its characters. The locals have a definite flavor and artist Blacky Shepherd makes them look fantastic. The visuals set the perfect tone beginning with a cabin in the woods. Within it are young girls clad in sacks. Granny is wonderful. She is an absolute visual monstrosity. When out on their own, the girls walk in the dark with the ground covered frightfully in a fog. The girls that hinder and assist Haggis look great, and I’m hoping they return in some form in this series. Poor Haggis is a sickly thing, which makes her goal and achievement all the more delicious and ominous. The character-free panels on Page 5 tease what’s occurred without being obvious with images. Ferris’s introduction is solid — she looks great, her office fine, and the jail cells awesome. Who’s in one of those cells is the first example of modern foreshadowing, because this individual looks like a character out of time. The character responsible for this mess looks like his last name could be Jerusalem; he’s the visual definition of sleezy. Page 10 is a stunner for showing grown up Haggis and she’s a beauty! I love her clothes, her stoop, and what she’s doing. The two pages that follow will make every reader sit up. Shepherd also makes the exteriors of the town look great. To read a horror book with this variety of settings looking this good is a treat. And the dessert of this issue appears first as a shadow on the Page 18 and fully revealed on 20. Shepherd, who’s got a fabulous name for a horror illustrator, is the perfect choice to create the modern settings, those in the backwoods, and the creature for this book. I need to find more by Mr. Shepherd. Overall grade: A

The colors: The lighting of the original Pumpkinhead film made the film incredibly creepy. Colorist Thiago Ribeiro employs similar eerie effects for Granny’s introduction. The raging fire is terrific, her hair a sensational mottled gray, and her skin ancient. The girls’ journey in the foggy forest is also a creeper, with blues, which are normally soothing colors, now otherworldly. The beautiful greens on Page 5 dissolve into bloody brown messes. Earth tones dominate Sheriff Ferris and her settings, which is a surprise, as I would have expected those colors more in use in the rural environments. The skies in Haggis’s settings are bright colors that scream the supernatural, but don’t come off as unreal. I am in love with the colors in the final panels on 18 and 19, which match the shock lighting of the film. I’m glad Ribeiro is on this book. Overall grade: A 

The letters: Troy Peteri creates the text for this book, making the scene settings, Granny and grown up Haggis’s unique speech, dialogue, a whisper, sounds, and the tease for next issue. The old hags’ voices look as deadly as they appearances. The scene settings look as though they could be signs just on the outskirt of a town. The sounds are great, with the monster’s being excellent. Overall grade: A

The back up story: But wait! There’s more! The final two pages are by Cullen Bunn, Kyle Strahm (artist), and Troy Peteri. Titled “Gluttony” this opening chapter has an old hag telling the tale of a demon that’s not sent on vengeance, but on gluttony. This is great addition to the canon. Done in black and white (well, actually purposedly aged looking paper) the visuals are reminiscent of the classic magazine sized comics of the 1960s and 1970s. The story is great and the art fun. In fact, the visuals are much more humorous than the first tale, though they have their dark sides as well. Heck, I’d buy a book if it looked like this all the way through. Overall grade: A

The final line: Why don’t ya set a spell with this book? ‘Cause goin’ out in the night, ‘specially tonight, could be dangerous. This captures the best elements of the films while charting its own horrific path of vengeance. Overall grade: A

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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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