Publisher: BOOM! STUDIOS
Writer: Grant MORRISON
Artist: Dan MORA
Klaus #1 brings us the “untold origin story” of everyone’s favourite jolly fat gift giver; the big man Santa himself. Brought to us by the comicbook legend Grant Morrison (All-Star Superman, Batman, WE3) and artist Dan Mora (Hexed) Klaus brings us an origin story for this folklore legend that is akin to that of any A-List superhero; albeit in a medieval setting which Game of Thrones fans will be very comfortable in. This story of Santa in Klaus #1 is an original one but does have its roots in established lore. With a rough, “wild man” image the Santa we meet in Klaus #1 borrows far more from old Germanic pagan traditions than it does from the Judeo-Christian stories of pious St Nick. Santa -although not yet named as such- in this comic is a wanderer who seems more comfortable living in the woods with his pet direwolf than he does living amongst his fellow men. Not that he has shunned society completely, it is en route to trade with the inhabitants of the local stronghold Grimvig that we meet him.
With Klaus #1 taking place during Yuletide the reader is made aware that traditions of celebration and the ceasing of work are already in place in this society. It is the very fact that the Baron of the local settlement of Grimvig has forbidden Yule celebrations for all but his family that sets events in motion that gets our protagonist involved in bringing justice to the stronghold. With all toys confiscated and all men sent to work the mines Grimvig’s draconian rule of law does not sit well with this rough and ready Santa with a firm moral compass. In fact it is not too long before he finds himself at odds with the guards; it is safe to say this Santa is not afraid to stand up for himself or others.
Yuletide was always traditionally a time associated with magic and ghosts so it not long until Morrison brings his love of the mystic into play in Klaus #1. While Mora’s illustrations are fantastic throughout this issue it is in the panels involving the introduction of these more mythical elements are introduced which will likely stick in the reader’s mind. The shift in art styles between the grounded and the ethereal is brilliantly done so as to draw the reader out of the gritty, grey world they have become accustomed to and highlight the otherworldliness of this experience. It would remiss however not to mention Mora’s astounding technical work throughout the issue. Using grey and blue hues he brings depth and vibrance to what could have otherwise been rather dull snowscapes.
Much of the story of Klaus #1 seems to be setting the stage for the next 5 issues. We meet the main man himself and are quickly shown both compassion and a strong sense of justice without either being conveyed with too heavy a hand. In fact despite the onslaught of world building information we are provided Klaus #1 is a very easy and enjoyable read. Perhaps the only slight letdown is the overly cartoonish nature of the evil baron and his odious family. However, this is a book for all ages and not every comicbook villain needs to be wrapped in ethical ambiguity; sometimes a detestable creep to rally against is what a comic needs.
While in modern media the “origin story” has become almost a laughable trope of storytelling it could lead some to wonder if Morrison is commenting on this in Klaus #1. Morrison has never been a writer to shy away from metafiction so undoubtedly there will always be readers who approach his work from that angle. With a much beloved folk legend being reimagined with a sense of justice not unlike that of a modern superhero’s, and a dark event leading to him gaining a unique power set it is not a huge leap of logic to suggest Morrison is doing more than telling a story. That all said Klaus #1 is a very enjoyable read with or without the subtextual analysis. It is also arguably one of Morrison’s accessible opening issue and could be enjoyed by readers of all ages.