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Klaus 1 (of 6)
Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Dan Mora
Boom Studios

My love for Grant Morrison is conditional: reading his collected works is a generally wonderful, mind-blowing experience. He understands and manipulates the medium of comic books in ways no one else has done. He resurrected the X-Men with a plethora of out-there ideas we still have today, like Emma Frost turning into diamonds and Weapon X program actually being roman numerals, with Wolverine as the tenth subject. His Final Crisis crossover explored the nature of stories themselves, and his work on the New 52 Action Comics made me like a Superman title for the first time. But his single issues can be pretty inscrutable, and it’s hard to remember that he almost always has reasoning behind his wacky presentations.

I have a similar conditional love for Christmas. Togetherness, family, and general goodwill tend to be strong draws for me, but the anxiety of holding to ever-more-ridiculous expectations can kill the season. So when Alan at Ultimate Comics handed me the first issue of Grant Morrison’s six-part Christmas series, I cringed.

And it turns out, this is the best single issue of a Grant Morrison book I’ve ever read. The story is an exploration of Santa Claus before the red suit and reindeer, a charmingly serious tale that pulls back before going too grim. In this version, Klaus is a hot, bearded muscle daddy in Northern Europe who comes in from the wild to trade pelts in the town of Grimsvig. Grimsvig is under totalitarian rule by the cruel Lord Magnus. All the men are forced into labor at the mines, and the children are forbidden to play in the streets. Magnus enjoys warm fires and gives lots of toys to his bratty son while Klaus is beaten by town policemen and has his goods stolen. After his escape, Klaus plays a tune on a flute that attracts ghosts (or aliens? Or monsters? This was the Morrsion-est part of the otherwise straightforward book) who put him into a trance, and when he wakes up, he has a sack full of toys he’s carved and a thirst to go spread some gosh-darn holiday cheer.

The story is clear and moves briskly through a standard but interesting fantasy set-up familiar to fans of Game Of Thrones. Dan Mora’s art is gorgeous and expressive, displaying the majesty of the harsh winter while also giving plenty of hot Santa beefcake. The holiday spirit is incorporated as a heroism, as giving value to joy moreso than the physical nature of the gifts Santa is loading up. Holiday tropes are emerging in this story, but it’s not winking and laughing about the eventual Madison Avenue Santa display. I think this is a great setup for a November book, and I recommend folks hit Ultimate Comics to pick up this great, bloody little stocking stuffer.

Matt Conner for Ultimate Comics

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