More than a month removed from Christmas, Major Spoilers takes a look at Grant Morrison’s take on the Yuletide mainstay, Santa Claus. As the series continues, will it keep that old Christmas magic alive, or is the issue a holiday humbug? Unwrap the review after the jump!
Previously in KLAUS: The wanderer known only as Klaus has found a kingdom where toys are confiscated from plebeian children and handed over to the spoiled prince of the land. Sack of toys on his back, Klaus has delivered goodies to the kingdom’s kiddos, earning the wrath of the monarchy. We open on the muscle-bound St. Nick surrounded by the crown’s vicious guard dogs…
First off, it’s great to be making my return to Major Spoilers. I’ve always had a fondness for the site (I even was featured in a poor man’s Hellboy costume several years ago), and loved being able to write regularly. It’s exciting to be providing these reviews to you again.
A little bit more about myself…I’m a Christmas junkie. I’ve got a collection of Santa Claus figurines that are displayed year long, and there are always Christmas tunes that pop up on my Pandora account. When Boom announced it would be publishing a new take on Santa Claus, called by author Morrison as his “All-Star” take on the mythological figure, I was only cautiously optimistic…I’ve seen attempts to make Santa an action hero before, such as in Poeshn and Duggan’s “The Last Christmas” series from Image in 2006, and they’ve never really satisfied me. Action-Santa stories traditionally seem to get too goofy or, bizarrely, too bloody.
Morrison’s Klaus, however, is not played for laughs like others that have come before…it’s a serious take on the character, one that sadly doesn’t always hit its mark.
Three issues into the series, and the story is still confined to the grey and humorless kingdom of Grimsvig. This issue gives the town some sorely needed history. It turns out that the baron of the kingdom has been forcing the menfolk to toil away in the mines. This in turn appeases a supernatural creature, also buried beneath the earth. In between scenes of Santa Claus running from attack dogs and zip-lining over a church, we see the baron interacting with this demonic entity, promising to erase the “Santa problem” once and for all, thereby keeping the town in a joyless state.
If the above sounds a bit nonsensical…well…it is. To see Santa participate in such peril is quite jarring. I haven’t even mentioned the friendly aliens that appear to him in the woods. While the religious holiday is hinted at in an oddly-constructed church sequence, there is little to connect this tale to Christmas at all. It’s hard to have Santa without Christmas, and without the connection, the story feels very hollow.
Dan Mora’s artwork is definitely a high point of the series. I especially enjoy the backgrounds, where thick linework and heavy inks create a dreary yet dreamlike environment. It’s not unlike Eric Powell’s work on “The Goon.” But the characters Mora creates are rooted in realism, providing for a unique visual experience. It’s rather like reading a sequential Christmas card, or perhaps what comics by Norman Rockwell might look like.
BOTTOM LINE: SLOW BURNING COAL
My love of Christmas prevents me from being too harsh on this book, but in all honesty, there are problems abound with this title. Santa Claus should never star in such a dull book. Maybe when the trade comes out, and all the clues have been uncovered, this story will read a bit better. But taken issue by issue, it’s a bit of a mess. It’s unfortunate as I had high hopes for the title.
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