In Review: Pumpkinhead #4

This is exciting and creepy, with the reader actually rooting for the title creature.

The covers: Four different frontpieces for collectors to track down. If you can’t find them, maybe Haggis can help you. The A cover is by Kyle Strahm with color by Greg Smallwood. This features the Gluttony demon against a black background. It has stepped on a pumpkin, smashing it grotesquely, with the gourd’s innards splattered. Looking at the creature, one can see orange gore dripping from its mouth and on its belly there’s a slit also dripping orange, with someone’s hand protruding and an eye shown. A simple, but effective cover. The B image by Blacky Shepherd with color by Marie Enger is the cover I chose to accompany this review because of all the characters on it. The title character is surrounded by several of its fellow demons who have been summoned to kill him. I like seeing all these ghastly characters together, though the coloring is a little bland; brighter shades would have really made this cover pop. Plus Pumpkinhead is extremely pale. The C cover is the B&W Incentive that’s the same as the A cover, just without Smallwood’s contributions. It looks fine, but I prefer it colored. The D is the B&W Incentive of the D cover without Enger’s talents. This looks incredible in black and white, with the background enough to make the characters really stand out. Overall grades: A B-, B A-, C C+, and D A

The story: A fearful couple comfort one another that they’re safe now that the strange noises outside have stopped. When the woman asks what they were, the man responds, “You heard the same stories as me. I just never believed them. Them things that are out there…they’re evil–” A sudden knocking on the door reveals the Bellworths and Clayton Reece, with Lucas Bellworth pointing a shotgun at the man. “I appreciate you letting us in like that. Mighty neighborly. Now…if you don’t mind…why don’t you hand over your car keys?” The story then moves to Witch Haggis who’s making her way through the forest, realizing that her sisters have raised the other demons, though they’re “not meant to roam the Earth at the same time.” She’s halted halfway across a stream by one of these demons. Before it can kill her Pumpkinhead leaps in and battles the beast. Meanwhile back at the Kinkaids’ house another demon enters their home and begins to kill the inhabitants. Sheriff Andi Ferris and Deputy Daryl are also in the house and do what they can to help the family and save themselves. There’s a lot of action, or should I say vengeance, in this issue from writer Cullen Bunn. There are two surprising take downs in this issue, with both surprising me. I shouldn’t be surprised that characters die in a Pumpkinhead book, because that’s what happens. I really liked one character’s actions on 14; as a fan of this film franchise, that’s what needs to be done to end this chaos. The climax of this series begins on Page 20, but Bunn delightfully pushes that aside to show the climax involving humans beginning. Very nice. Overall grade: A-

The art: Blacky Shepherd is a really sick artist and I say that in the most complimentary and approving way. The villains of this book look skeevy as can be and that sums up the Bellworths and Reece perfectly: they are visual backwoods threats. Haggis is fantastic on every page she appears, looking every inch a witch. In this issue she inspires sympathy when confronted by one of the demons unleashed by her sisters. I never would have thought I would care what happens to her, but her hideousness becomes pure fear on Pages 3 and 4. The battle between the demons is great. It looks like something that could happen in a film, which is what a comic book spin-off should have. The demon that’s attacking the Kinkaids’ house looks like something out of a Lovecraftian nightmare, being a mass of flesh, teeth, horns, tentacles, and claws. The violence on 12 is graphic, but it’s exactly what it should look like if someone were to fall victim to this demon. The large panel on 13 is great, showing one character trying to avoid the monster’s wrath. I also like the shading done for the setting, with cross hatching and dots used to create a dark setting, yet still allowing the characters to remain visible to the reader. The reveal at the top of the final page is great, showing the survivors and possible victims of this tale’s upcoming conclusion. The final panel is a beauty as it shows a close-up of Haggis’s squinty eyes. Outstanding. Overall grade: A

The colors: Also doing an outstanding job on this book is Arancia Studio on the colors. I love how bright this book is even though it’s set in the woods at night. Notice how bland the colors on the first page are as the couple huddles in the dark; they can be perfectly seen, though it’s obvious they don’t have the lights on. When they door is opened in the final panel on the page the colors are much brighter, showing the reader which characters are important to this tale. Haggis stands out in every panel she’s in because of the violet colors she wears, allowing her to always catch the reader’s eye. Three panels on 4 are given a bright orange color to increase the shock of the visuals. When Pumpkinhead speaks its given a mud color for the interiors of its dialogue balloons, while its speech is given a lighter brown. This increases the creature’s unnatural nature. I love the bright flesh of the demon at the Kinkaid’s. When blood flows in this issue it’s a stark, shocking crimson. The light source from a character on the final page is wonderfully bright, increasing the realism. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, sounds, Haggis’s unique speech, Pumpkinhead’s speech, the Kincaids’ demon’s speech, yells, and the tease for next issue are brought to life by A Larger World Studio’s Troy Peteri. I love the unique speech given to the demons, making them further visually separated from the humans. Having Haggis have her own speech font also separates her. I like how her speech also looks frail, aging the character. Overall grade: A

Backup story: Bunn, Kyle Strahm (the artist), and Peteri create the two paged backup tale, continuing the plight of Gluttony’s rise. The demon punches the witch, with her dropping the infant Pumpkinhead. What follows is shocking and leaves the world’s fate in question. For only two pages, this is an exciting and surprising tale and the visuals look great, capturing the glory of 1970’s magazine sized comics. Overall grade: A 

The final line: Pumpkinhead takes some lumps as the demons have him cornered, while the humans take some losses. This is exciting and creepy, with the reader actually rooting for the title creature. The visuals are as creepy as the story. If one enjoys horror, this is one to pick up. 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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