By Jonathan Edwards
In November of last year (2015), Boom! Studios released the first issue of Grant Morrison's Klaus. With Dan Mora on art duties, the limited series was billed as "Santa Claus: Year One." To be honest, I don't know if I would've been as immediately sold on the idea if it weren't Morrison at the helm, using his unique creative flair to elevate it above mere high concept. Over the seven issues, we met the eponymous Klaus, a reclusive hunter chosen by winter spirits to return joy and hope to a city under tyrannical rule, culminating with a fight against an ancient evil. Stylistically, Klaus is comparable to Darren Aronofsky's film Noah, both maintaining a relatively grounded feel, with the more fantastical elements feeling more mythic and/or folkloric than outright religious. Overall, it was a strong, if not wholly exceptional, entry in Morrison's long and vaunted writing career.
Thirteen months later and just in time for Christmas, Morrison and Mora are back with Klaus and the Witch of Winter, an oversized one-shot sequel. However, it's immediately evident that this is more than just an extraneous follow-up. From the first page, we see the more medieval setting of the original series has given way to that of a contemporary city. Seeing this made me realize the true brilliance of Morrison's original idea. He wasn't just writing an origin story for Santa Claus, he was building the foundation for an indefinite number of stories starring his take on the character. And if anything, I think that's the main takeaway from this one-shot.
Klaus and the Witch of Winter reads like the zero issue of a hypothetical ongoing book or, like Atomic Robo, a continuing succession of limited series. Klaus makes a number of references to his previous adventures throughout, and we even get a glimpse of what is effectively his Fortress of Solitude. We also meet a number of new supporting characters from Klaus's past, all with fairy tale and/or folkloric origins. Two words for anyone who, like me, is a total nerd for that kind of stuff: Yule Lads. Admittedly, the plot does take a bit to really get going, and it takes the backseat more than once to exposition. However, like I said, I feel like the real point of this book is to tease how much more there is to Klaus and his world. And in that regard, I think it's successful. Every passing reference to something from his history made me want to know more about it, and I'm eager to know else Morrison may pull from and incorporate. Personally, I would love to see Klaus fight the Mouse King from the original The Nutcracker and the Mouse King story by E. T. A. Hoffmann. It had seven heads in that version.
As for Mora's art, I don't know what else there is to say other than it's fantastic. All of the character designs feel unique; the colors are gorgeous, and with as many characters as are on display here, none of the panels ever feel overly crowded or convoluted. After this, I really can't imagine Klaus continuing without him, and I hope to see more from him in the near future.
If you were a fan of Klaus, then I think this is worth picking up. It still earnestly believes in the goodness of Santa and Klaus himself for doing everything he does simply to help people. If you didn't read the original but are interested, you might test the waters with this one. And if you dig it, Boom! Studios released a hardcover collection of the full limited series last month.
Klaus and the Witch of Winter #1 (One Shot)
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Dan Mora
Publisher: Boom! Studios