Based on the cult film franchise, “Pumpkinhead” #1 follows the sheriffs of a small town, trying to bring justices to family whose children were killed in a hit and run accident. But, the family seems to have other, more supernatural at their disposal. Some spoilers follow.
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Blacky Shepherd
Colored by Thiago Ribeiro
Lettered by Troy Peteri
“For each of Man’s evils, a special demon exists.”
For thirty years, the demon of vengeance has been still, its corpse buried in a pumpkin patch graveyard in the hills. But when a reckless driver accidentally kills a pair of children, the creature is called up once more. This time, though, the monster’s intended target is protected by a cruel backwoods crime family. They hatch their own supernatural plans for dealing with Pumpkinhead. For each of man’s sins, a special demon exists, and when seven infernal creatures roam the hills and the hollows, no one–guilty or otherwise–is safe.
Plus! The first part in a backup story about everyone’s favorite, Haggis, by Cullen Bunn and Kyle Strahm!
A small disclaimer I want to put out right way: I’ve never seen any of the Pumpkinhead films. So, if there is anything that it seems like I’ve missed located in the movies, this is the reason why. I’m going to be reviewing “Pumpkinhead” #1 completely based on its own merit.
Luckily, even standing on its own, there is a lot to like from “Pumpkinhead” #1. Cullen Bunn has written a number of high concept horror books and he seems to know what he is doing here. There is a decent amount of set up being done in this issue, laying out of the stakes of who the major players are going to be, but Bunn keeps most of the characters interesting. The main thrust of the story seems to be centered around a man who killed a few children in a car accident, the community seeking supernatural vengeance against him, and the cops that are trying to sort out the entire business.
Bunn does some interesting work in establishing the setting around the story. There are references made by the cops working on the opioid epidemic, with one officer who wants to focus their efforts on drug busts instead of a hit and run on some children. It will be interesting to see how these officers come into play a little bit more, because as of right now, they seem a little bit separated from the main story.
The artwork by Shepherd is well done, for the most part. The backgrounds of many scenes are abstract, but not in a bad way. In many scenes, the only backgrounding to the figures either a tree line or a mountain range, far off in the distance. It creates a sense of eeriness to the scenes, like the characters are floating through a kind of fog, and it works well with the story. The coloring by Ribeiro helps set this tone as well, all greens and purples in the scenes where the story is in its more supernatural mood.
Unfortunately, there are a few places where the art feels a little rough. In a number of the scenes, especially the ones involving characters sitting around, the art feels a bit stiff. There’s very little sense of movement to the figures, leaving a lot of panels looking like these are action figures being posed in certain positions. This isn’t the end of the world, but it did bring me out of the story a little bit. It is a little hard to build up tension when the characters feel a little bit lifeless, and this robs some of the scenes toward the end of the book of some of their punch.
There are also some moments when it is inconsistent. On top of the stiffness to the figures, there are a few times in the issue where the characters begin to blend into the background a little bit. The characters lose a decent amount of their details, and there are places where the lack hard outlines between themselves and the background. And while that could certainly be a style thing, here it just doesn’t quite work.Continued below
On the other hand, though, the art does do a good job of conveying most of the characters facial expressions, in a great amount of detail. It makes the parts of the book where people are just talking, which is most of the book, a lot more interesting. And when the monster does finally arrive, it is also rendered in a great amount of detail. It is gruesome in all the right ways, odd bone structures and amounts of teeth. It’s something that I’m excited to see more of as the issues go on.
There is also, at the end of “Pumpkinhead” #1, a short backup story, also written by Cullen Bunn and featuring art by Kyle Strahm. It’s a fun, two-page look at the witch associated with the vengeance monster that we get to see in this issue, with her telling a story about one of her sisters and their demon. The art work here is very loose and sketchy, and gives the back up a fun, story bookish quality.
This first issue of “Pumpkinhead” ends up being a bit of a mixed bag. There is some good, but the artwork is a bit stiff and inconsistent. On top of that, most of the issue is spent setting up for what is to come. While it is important to give background information, for a first issue, this feels like its missing a bit of what I was hoping to get out of this issue. Hopefully, as the series progresses, and we get to see more of the monster, it will pick up and some of these problems will be solved.
Final Verdict: 5.7 – “Pumpkinhead” #1 doesn’t do enough to pull in readers, and the artwork ends up being a bit too inconsistent.