By Mike Mignola, Adam Hughes
Hellboy: Krampusnacht is a Christmas story only Hellboy could tell, with the help of the talented duo, Mike Mignola and Adam Hughes. Mignola’s storytelling is a hellish candy cane, winding together rewarding moments of action and dialogue with the signature, demonic tone that Hellboy comics are known for. Hughes incorporates this in the art as well, in multiple facets. He expertly uses a few color tones in a way that calls back to the original art of the series and demands attention to each individual panel. The layout of each panel is top-notch as well. Especially in the first half of the book, the flow from one panel to the next gives Krampusnacht liveliness.
Peeking up through several scenes are objects bathed in the titular character’s iconic red. This contrast with the dark shadows and various other tones in each panel draws attention to the smaller details and works to slow down the reader. There’s a certain ebb and flow dynamic between these color details and the layout of the comic that stops readers from flipping through too quickly. Hughes’ ability to draw the eye through a page efficiently is addicting. He focuses on an object or detail in the frame, then follows it through the narrative in a few panels until the focus changes, and repeats. It creates a truly televised effect.
One of the most satisfying panels displays a toast between man and monster. Hellboy’s massive hand daintily grasps a champagne glass between his thumb and pointer finger and ‘tinks’ against a frail old man’s glass. Its moments like this that play into Hellboy’s themes of what it means to be good. The visual contrast of a human hand next to a demon’s in such a normal act proposes the question: what makes these two different? Hopefully no one feels spoiled by the fact that it’s not appearance that differentiates Hellboy and the old man.
Mignola spins a yarn woven with old and new. Readers can guess from the title what the main conflict will be, but Mignola adds his own Hellboy twist to the old story. Only the most observant readers will be able to piece together exactly what he’s getting at with his Krampus interpretation on the first read through, but it’s undoubtedly worth a second attempt. The introduction via Christmas carol, and the classic usage of birds as symbols, all the way through the “Christmas Memories” is filled with delight and depth.
Hellboy: Krampusnacht is not only for lovers of the series, but for newcomers as well. There’s no reliance on previous lore of the series, or even necessity to know the origin of the character. Rather, the issue is Hellboy in its style. The narrative beats are darkly entertaining with character intrigue and the art is equally so with some of the best layouts overall. This Hellboy Christmas tale is accessible and enjoyable for anyone interested in the series, or even the genre represented by it.