Saturday, 29 October 2016

Klaus Review (Grant Morrison, Dan Mora)

It’s Yuletime but there’s no seasonal respite for the put upon townsfolk of Grimsvig – the evil Lord Magnus is forcing the men to work in the coal mines on Christmas Day while the children are banned from having toys or any fun. But magic is in the air so you better not cry – Santa Klaus is coming to town! 

Dubbed “All-Star Santa” by some clever wag, Grant Morrison and Dan Mora’s Klaus is the secret origin of Santa Claus, and it’s brilliant!

If you’re familiar with Morrison’s work, you’ll know he tends to do two kinds of books: trippy/elaborately complex stories and the straightforward kind – Klaus is firmly in the latter, so don’t be put off by thinking it’ll be inaccessible or too weird. 

Also, Klaus isn’t the familiar jolly old fat man figure you might expect for Santa – he looks more like Bruce Wayne out of costume, ridonkulously ripped and hunky, and his demeanour is similarly serious. Given the ninja stealth and fighting Klaus gets up to, it really does feel like Morrison is writing Batman again albeit with the soul and positivity of Superman in an Elseworlds-type setting - great news if you’re a fan of Morrison’s Batman like me! 

Morrison cleverly weaves Klaus’ origin with traditional Christmas features like presents, chimney delivery, the significance of coal as punishment, the red and white colour scheme, the focus on family and kindness to all, the sled, and the tree, in an effortlessly complementary way that feels natural to the story. And I love that he jettisoned reindeer as Santa’s helpers and replaced them with giant snow wolves - that page of Klaus riding his wolf-driven sled across a lightning-sky background was SO metal! 

But Morrison ensures that it’s also a real story rather than a tick-box exercise as our kindly underdog outlaw, framed years ago for a crime he didn’t commit, takes on the authorities with plenty of awesome action and an unexpectedly tender romance at the heart of everything. 

If there’s a complaint to be had it’s that the villain is a bit too one-dimensional (think V for Vendetta obviousness) and the finale is your usual archetypical good vs evil smackdown complete with predictable ending. Then again in a book primarily focused on Santa, you’d expect the other characters’ development to be limited. 

I don’t know where Morrison found him but Dan Mora’s artwork is a revelation: gorgeously painted landscapes, dynamic action scenes, excellent layouts, fantastic monster design, and he really gives the winter fantasyland its enthralling chilly atmosphere. Klaus is such a beautifully-drawn book - and he does it all, pencils, inks and colours! - it’s easy to see why Mora walked away with Most Promising Newcomer at this year’s Eisners. So well-deserved, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for his future projects. 

Grant Morrison and Dan Mora’s Klaus is a highly entertaining and imaginative origin story for that ancient superhero, Santa Claus, and a wonderfully enchanting feel-good seasonal read too. A definite stocking-filler for comics fans everywhere!

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