With all the modernizing and darkening of fairytale characters, it’s nice to see a comic that takes an already-dark character and runs with that concept to its fullest extent. The Krampus, for those who don’t know, is a part of the Germanic Santa Claus story. Now while Santa is fairly well-known in terms of what he dishes out (presents), naughty children don’t get a lump of coal from the jolly fat man. The Krampus, a goat-like devilman, beats them with a stick and tosses them into his magic bag to be dragged to Hell. Dynamite. Brian Joines’ take on the character is that the Council of Santas imprisoned him for his brutal tactics toward the children of the world and he’s been languishing for decades, if not centuries. When St. Nicholas’ bones, the source of power for all Santas, are stolen by sugarplum fairies, they bring the old beast out of hiding and strap a bomb to him that will detonate should he return to his overly-punitive ways. When last we left the Grizzled Green Krampus, he was about to run afoul of a woodwork assassin in the form of the Nutcracker. If you haven’t figured at this point, this is not the most serious book in the world. Joines’ tone is darkly comedic, but with a lot of emphasis on the comedy, and it works very, very well. It pays enough attention to the mythos of the characters to be clearly well researched, but it isn’t shackled to it, allowing for a looser story that doesn’t need everything meticulously spelled out.
Dean Kotz’s linework is chaotic, but never unclear and always with a clear purpose. The characters, though obviously drawing inspiration from folklore, are still interestingly realized and brought to kinetic, action-packed life on the page. The Krampus himself is probably the most changed from how he’s portrayed in that certain aspects are downplayed (his face) and certain others are played way up (his general build and demeanor), but the overall effect is one that works very well. Part of the effectiveness of this is the color work by Ron Riley, who gives the dark, mystical world some real depth, but also incredible beauty. There’s an ice palace at one point in this issue that is suitably beautiful to both characters and reader and is actually some of the lightest stuff in a comic with a very dark color palette.
This book soars forward in time and moves at a frantic, breakneck pace. It practically moves from one action set piece to another to another, all the while traversing the world in a single turn of the pace. I’m not saying we need every detail of Krampus’ journey from Italy to the Himalayas, but it might’ve been a better chance for us to get to know our gruff, shaggy protagonist. His personality and inner motivations are a little all over the place, mostly comedic but with a near-manic, vicious intensity streak that ebbs and flows, but is never commented on. I feel like this issue could have been longer (or, if I’m properly remembering the series itself could have been longer) or even split in two. I want more on the Santa Council and MUCH more on the Krampus.
This book is still one of the better examples of bawdy, joyfully violent fun and even endures beyond the holiday season, so I still recommend giving this look at one of Christmas’ most forgotten figures a look. The characters may not be fully fleshed out, but it has only been two issues and what I have seen is likable enough and compelling enough as well. The visuals, also, do a great job sustaining the book’s tone and purpose.