The last issue of “The Crooked Man” was legitimately fucking scary. Most horror comics, like horror movies, aren’t actually scary or anything, but Mignola hit this weird anything can happen sense of narrative that when mixed with Richard Corben’s signature art didn’t really read like anything else.
The moment where it suddenly went from noon to midnight, foreshadowed by a striking image of wailing witches flying through the air, the gaggle of down syndrome redneck witches surrounding the church were so rarified and disturbing that it made the appearance of the titular Crooked Man almost an afterthought.
This latest (and final) issue wraps the story up and turns the Crooked Man into an actual character, which really does make him less scary and switches the focus from creeped-out Lovecraft-ian atmosphere to something close to say, Jeeper Creepers. There’s nothing wrong with this and once again, Mignola’s narrative hits this point where the “anything can happen” feeling that only comics give you gets beyond palpable. It’s crazy to see Hellboy pierced by some stakes in the fence thrown by the Crooked Man, and it gets weirder from there.
And Corben’s art is the perfect match to all this. Like the Crooked Man himself, Corben’s work is great because it’s unpredictable. He does lots of weird stuff with perspective, sometimes purposefully giving someone a head that’s a little too big or present an image from some odd angle like it’s got a fisheye lens on it or something. There’s also the weird effect of it being really cartoony but not fun or cute at all. There’s lot of Silver Age sound effects and ‘Looney Tunes’ smoke. It’s all pretty ugly, but it’s never too much.
Mignola’s writing is similar. He treats the Appalachian Mountains the same way he’s treated some weird, fucked-up town in Eastern Europe, which is refreshing because it would be easy to fumble into grotesque caricature dealing with the South. It’s also not too cute and sensitive either. Tom Ferrell’s a skinny-ass redneck, but he’s a human too with fears and concerns who just wants to do the right thing. He’s given an amazing level of bravery when his response to the Crooked Man’s request for the cat bone that’s protected Tom is simply: “…he’s got me. Fair’s fair, I used that cat bone.”
One of the smarter aspects of Mignola’s writing is the way the story never wraps up as quickly as you expect it to. Sometimes this is a bit frustrating and makes a story feel overlong, but it’s a great way of throwing in some final weird emotions that wouldn’t fit if plot--instead of character and emotion--were the sole focus for Mignola. Additionally, it adds a sober, realistic aspect to the story's end. The pathetic creature clutching the gold, Hellboy and Tom walking in the woods the day after, the return to reality after all the supernatural stuff.