Born to be the herald of the Apocalypse. Raised to be the savior of Mankind. The being known as Hellboy has had an interesting life in the service of the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense), yet no challenge has interested him so much as the one that brings him to a small Austrian village in search of The Christmas Demon.
Being raised in America, Hellboy had never heard the stories about Krampus that are commonplace in European countries that celebrate Christmas. Legend has it that Saint Nicholas – who journeys each Christmas Eve to reward good children – has a counterpart called Krampus, who punishes the children who are disobedient or unruly.
It’s not a story Hellboy is prepared to believe, until he meets a man who claims to be The Krampus of legend and an Earth-born demon much like Hellboy. The good news is he has tired of his life on Earth and wishes to die and return to Hell.
The bad news is that he doesn’t plan to make it easy for Hellboy to kill him…
Virtually unknown in the United States until the last decade, Krampus has become a popular figure in recent years. Many millennials were introduced to the character through appearances on American Dad and The Venture Bros. There is also Krampus, the 2015 horror movie based on the legend of the Anti-Santa.
It’s no surprise then that, with Mike Mignola choosing to write a Hellboy Holiday Special, that he should choose to pit his most famous creation against The Krampus. Indeed, the greatest problem with Hellboy: Krampusnacht is that little about the story is surprising. The plot is basic and typical of most Hellboy comics (i.e. Hellboy meets a monster and they fight) but Krampusnacht does deliver exactly what the title suggests.
The artwork, by contrast, is incredibly surprising. I had certain expectations when I saw that Adam Hughes was the artist on this issue and those expectations were completely blown away. Hughes is most famous for his work as a pin-up artist and his wicked sense of humor. This later quality makes Hughes an ideal partner for Mignola’s writing, though his usual art style seems poorly suited to Hellboy. Miraculously, Hughes alters his aesthetic, creating artwork that is definitely Adam Hughes’ but confirms to the dark and gritty world of The B.P.R.D.
While Hellboy: Krampusnacht is unlikely to win the Hellboy franchise any new fans, the faithful will find this holiday special enjoyable. The story is true to form, if a tad predictable. That said, the artwork is wonderful and fans of Adam Hughes will be astonished at what he accomplishes here.
Hellboy: Krampusnacht will be released on December 20, 2017