Written by: Matt Molgaard
As a longtime comic book and graphic novel reader I’m always on the prowl for something different and familiar, simultaneously. Maybe an absurdly bleak Batman tale, or a new spin on post-apocalyptic terror. As a true geek, there are few things greater than feeling invested in something that still manages to surprise and delight. Enter the new tie-in to Michael Dougherty’s Christmas spookfest, Krampus.
Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas brings an assortment of talented players together to gift us some creepy and enlightening yuletide tales. Dougherty oversees the project that welcomes writers Todd Casey and Zach Shields (along with some supporting work from Laura Shields) to the fold while Christian Dibari, Stuart Sayger, Michael Montenat and the amazing Maan House handle the illustration duties.
That’s an impressive lineup.
Before you say it let me inform you that I know, we’re a bit late on getting this one covered. Sometimes that’s just how it goes. In this case, unearthing Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas late was most certainly better than never, as this one of the strongest graphic novels (perhaps the greatest if you pull Dark Horse’s releases from the debate) released in 2015.
The structuring of the book mirrors Dougherty’s 2008 hit, Trick ‘r Treat, functioning as an anthology that interweaves each story without definitive partition points. Each story bleeds into the next until the final segment sees elements of the first three stories mingle in unmistakable fashion. And these are fine stories, even if they’re not the most original works you’ve ever read.
The first story tells the tale of a haunted man who’s let his life spiral out of control. He’s the drunken in-store Santa Claus for a small outlet and he’s on the cusp of losing his job when the lights go out and murderous elves arrive. It’s up to the grumpy and unlikely Santa to save himself and the others facing peril. This is a passionate tale that wins huge points on the sentimental front, as it becomes hard not to feel an emotional reaction as we learn of “Santa’s” past and see him round a mental corner, transforming from worthless cause to final hope.
The second story also boasts an impressive degree of depth. Like the book opener, we get some very touchy work here as a cop struggling with familial loss comes face to face with the man who killed her sister years ago. The story forces us to examine vengeance and births a simple but effective question: Can we forgive those who have all but ruined our lives, especially if they themselves are burdened by guilt and remorse? It’s another strong piece of fiction that commands respect.
The final two segments merge into one, and although this is the least inventive story in the book, it’s handled with care. It’s a spin on Charles Dickens’ timeless classic, A Christmas Carol, introducing a new “Scrooge” whose savage behavior leads to a quest through the past. This is self-examination at its finest and although the tale doesn’t deviate from the source, it still carries very real charm.
All in all, Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas is a true success. Furthermore, this one will qualify as a top read regardless of the season. During Christmas it’s sure to leave you feeling a little chilled, but very fuzzy on the inside. Any other time of the year? Well, you’ve got a piece of work that’s going to make you count down the days until Christmas arrives.
Read the book. You won’t be disappointed.