Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Adam Hughes
Letterer: Clem Robins
Cover by: Adam Hughes
Publisher by: Dark Horse Comics
The European legend of the Krampus has rapidly gained popularity in the United States over the last few years. To us Americans, it’s a silly and scary legend, that makes our legends of stocking full of coal pale in comparison. However, I’m sure to German children, it’s just terrifying. Well, Mike Mignola has often delved into European legend in his work on Hellboy. It was only natural for this conflict to eventually happen.
Yes. In Hellboy: Krampusnacht, Hellboy fights Krampus. Of course, as a Hellboy story, it’s a lot more complex and nuanced than that. There’s a ghostly mother. There’s the doomed souls of stolen children. There’s a mournful hellbeast who just wants to go home.
Hellboy treks into a German forest after a supernatural incident draws his attention, finding himself in a creaky old house inhabited by a creaky old man, who claims to be Krampus. He proves it. And the fight ensues.
Mignola doesn’t dive deep into the Krampus legend, but he does do a great job giving an overview to readers who may be unfamiliar. What he does do really well is dive into the horror of what Krampus does. The softened version of the legend states that he whips naughty children. The truly scary version is that he consumes them. This Krampus proves that the truth is the latter. This creature is horrifying in all the best ways, and that makes this a great story.
Another positive is Hellboy’s demeanor throughout. Though he doesn’t reference Christmas outside of discussing the creature’s origins, it’s clear throughout that our hero is disgusted by how something so evil can be associated with something pure. He also becomes a defender of that purity by defending and saving these children. It’s a continuation of a theme that Mignola has had through all of his Hellboy stories, and it’s wonderfully put on the page here.
Adam Hughes was absolutely the right choice to draw this. His spectral mother looked amazing. Hellboy himself was his usual picture of heroic stoicism, but he looked great. And the Krampus itself was terrifying. He does a great trick of making it more and more monstrous as the story progressed, going from creepy grandpa, to hulking beast, to demonic hell-creature. The action is also top notch. Hughes is known much more for his covers than his interiors, but he proves here that he still has the chops for superhero work.
In all, a very fun package and a great Christmas special just before the holiday.