The holiday season is a time of merriment and mirth-making… and mythological madness. While we typically associate the winter months with celebrations filled with tales of St. Nicholas and reindeer and gathering around the hearth, there are numerous traditions around the globe that border on horror. A prime example of that is the ferocious feline of Icelandic tradition that preys on children—and a perfect adversary for a certain demon-turned-hero. In the Hellboy Winter Special: The Yule Cat, out now from Dark Horse Comics, the titular member of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.) has been pulled into an adventure by Professor Larusson in Reykjavik, Iceland, to contend with the terror in question. Set in the early 1990s, The Yule Cat has been terrorizing the city’s children for the holidays and Larusson hopes that Hellboy can rid Reykjavik of the whiskered menace.

There’s much to praise about the standalone tale, but one of its best strengths is that the story moves. The creative team of writer and artist Matt Smith, colorist Chris O’Halloran, and letterer Clem Roberts wastes little time throwing us into the fray. They know they have 22 pages to hook readers, set up the stakes, and resolve it in a way that is satisfying for the time spent. The Yule Cat feels like some of the best Hellboy yarns in that, even when there are no supernatural beasts on the page, you feel the specter of dread that has to be extinguished. The Yule Cat (and what follows—no spoilers) produces a genuinely unsettling tone; you may never look at your house cat the same.

Plenty of skilled creators in the comics craft have tackled Mike Mignola’s wielder of the Right Hand of Doom, but this particular trio have produced one of the best one-and-done Hellboy stories in recent memory.

Hellboy Winter Special: The Yule Cat is on sale now from Dark Horse Comics.

From the official issue description:

Hellboy travels to Reykjavik, where children are disappearing and a giant beast has been spotted . . . could it be the infamous Yule Cat of Icelandic lore?

Fan-favorite Hellboy artist Matt Smith writes and draws this chilling wintery one-shot!