Vengeance is a common human desire and, like other human desires, also a dreadful sin. For each sin, there is a demon; the sin given flesh and summoned into the world by people who think they can survive the experience.
After a hit-and-run leaves children dead, a vengeance demon is raised to hunt down those responsible. With no other hope for survival, the demon’s victims raise demons of their own. A rural American community is torn apart – both metaphorically and literally – by inter-demon conflict.
This is a monster story; the major focus of the narrative is on the various demons attacking and fighting. Like all good monster stories, there’s a needlessly-complicated backstory and a strong moral element to who dies and how. Similarly, the titular monster is not a full antagonist – half the time, you’re rooting for it.
The violence is explicit but rarely that graphic – things get crushed and slashed and melted, but it’s not revelled in. This is good – fictional violence should be a means not an end. In fact, I was expecting the comic to tend edgier – it has personifications several mortal sins, but they don’t do much to live up to their reputations.
In fact, demon design is one of the weaker parts of the book. Lust’s most seductive action is beckoning once, and she’s got spider legs. Sloth spits acid and climbs on things – one of those characteristics is strange, the other is bizarre. None of the demons are particularly obviously themselves, and I think that the creators missed a trick here; why use iconic evils if you aren’t going to make them iconic?
Before reading this, I was not familiar with the source material. In fact, I wasn’t aware that there was source material at all. There’s a 1988 film called Pumpkinhead which I understand is the original work. This is not an adaptation though – same general themes, same monster, but a different story and characters.
The monster is called Pumpkinhead because of a bad choice by the original source material – it doesn’t have the head of a pumpkin, though it does rise from a presumably humble pumpkin patch. Other than that detail, pumpkins are unimportant to the narrative; if you were hoping for authentically autumnal horror, then this is not quite what you want.
The art is consistent and clear, which I appreciate – a lot of comics, particularly horror ones, seem to go with a more abstract and impressionistic style. This is fine in theory, but often ends up with confusing images and limited differentiation between the characters. That’s not the case here – it’s always clear who everyone is and who each limb belongs too. There is a supplementary story which is sepia-toned and more abstract, but it’s still clear what is going on.
Pumpkinhead is a satisfying supernatural slasher story in which all the right things happen in the right places. It’s a b-movie in comic form, and I find that that appeals to me.
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley. I mention this only in the spirit of transparency.