By Will Holden
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wonder what Father Christmas’ origin story is”? No?
Oh well, never mind, here it is! Klaus was written by Grant Morrison with art by Dan Mora and was published by BOOM! Studios back in 2015 (what a heady time it was). This is very much a Christmas book for people who are not too hung up, or indeed prefer to avoid, the traditional. The story of Klaus acts as a Year One from an Elseworld-style parallel reality (Is that enough DC references for people to read this?).
This book posits our Yule time hero in a fantasy tinged, medieval Scandinavian setting, returning to his once home town of Grimsvig only to discover it is very different from the last time he was there. As the tale unfolds we find that the town has been occupied by an evil overlord, Lord Magnus, attempting to crush the joy and wellbeing brought on by the Yuletide celebration as well as forcing all of the men in the town down the coal mines. Unbeknownst to the workers, this effort is to unearth something evil which whispers into Lord Magnus’ ear.
Klaus sets about a one man mission to restore joy and wrestle control from Lord Magnus to save his boyhood home. To do this Klaus receives the assistance of mysterious Spirits of the Forest. Klaus falls asleep and awakens to find he has built hundreds of wooden toys and wonders under the influence of the Forest Spirits. In an undeniably Batman fashion (there’s another), Klaus infiltrates the walls of Grimsvig, sneaking by guards in order to leave presents on the door steps of all the children. The following day, when these toys are discovered, they appear to come to life in the children’s hands. There is something magical about these toys. This comes as a threat to Lord Magnus’ plans.
There are several important side characters in Klaus, namely, Dagmar and Jonas. These are the wife and son, respectively, of Lord Magnus. Jonas is a sour young man with an abusive father and a mother who has simply given up in the light of her husband’s villainy. All of the toys that were brought to the children of Grimsvig are collected up and given to Jonas but they do not come to life in his hands. Dagmar, as mentioned, has given in to the oppression of Lord Magnus and has essentially checked out of her responsibilities to her son and her people. However there is a hidden history shared between Dagmar and Klaus which promises to draw Dagmar out of Lord Magnus’ clutches. Klaus also has a trusty wolf companion called Lilli, I’m just a sucker for animals in my comics, especially when they are such good doggoes.
Dan Mora provides exceptional art throughout. From the vistas and backgrounds that he has created, the sweeping icy tundra to the stone buildings and archways of Grimsvig, the setting feels so lived in and real it is a breeze to let yourself become absorbed in it. The character designs are each beautiful and unique, creating a set of distinct characters for the reader to love or revile. These designs do not directly follow the expected iconography but are recognisable none the less. Klaus himself has the broad, bearded frame of Santa Claus but without the rotund belly and kind smile. Once the story’s elements of magic begin to show, the art takes another step up providing some truly stunning splash pages and action moments.
Despite being a non-traditional Christmas story (note the lack of one Jesus Christ) there are many bits and pieces of the well trodden mythos of Father Christmas that are sprinkled into this tale. For example, after Klaus’ first foray into Grimsvig, Lord Magnus posts more guards awaiting his next delivery of toys. This time, to avoid detection, Klaus chooses to jaunt across the rooftops of the town and deposit his gifts via the chimney instead. Klaus also acquires a flying slay, however this one is pulled by magical snow wolves (More doggoes!).
This book is the melding of the Father Christmas story and that of a traditional super hero comic, full of action, danger and festive cheer. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something a bit different at Christmas time and for people who already love super hero stories but want something that does not follow the beaten path.
5 good dogs out of 5
You can get your hands on Klaus from any of these lovely places: