To the top of the roof, to the top of the wall…
Myths are an incredibly important part of the human condition. We weave tales into our collective consciousness that become the foundation of our shared experience. With the incredible increase of content outlets in the last decade, people are becoming much more fragmented in their entertainment options and the stories that bind us together, but myths are deeper than that. They envelope and transcend television, internet, and radio. The mythos of Santa Claus is one such, and though the holiday that’s associated with his story is Christian in nature, I’m a firm believer that it has spun away from that context to be its own unique, non-denominational entity, where the traditions that predate Christianity within his tale are coming to the fore every now and again. Jim Butcher has done it with a wonderfully joyful and sinister approach, and then there’s Action Lab’s Sleigher which is ridiculawesome, but Grant Morrison approaches this paragon of goodness and giving in his own way, putting his own unique touch on a story that lives within a large part of people.
Every religion and tradition has some marking of midwinter. If you look at them all in a broad scope, there’s always a connotation of light: the Birth of the Light of the World, the eight candles of the Menorah, countless Celtic and pagan traditions for Yule. We’re all hunting for light in the darkness, and Morrison plays upon that theme to great effect, casting our Santa-to-be as a young Captain of the guard with clever hands who likes to make toys for children in his downtime. There’s little in the way of moral grey areas in this story; the pure innocence of the title character may be a little more rough and willing to hurt (and kill) if need be, but at his heart there’s never a question of his allegiance to light and goodwill. Some of the antagonists can evoke touches of pity or understanding from the audience, but when you think that the lot of them may end up on the path of redemption, you watch one skip gaily straight into the hole that his soul has carved out so far.
I could look at Dan Mora’s artwork for days. I love the animation style that he has on this book. It reinforces the clear-cut nature of the plot without dumbing anything down to the audience. His character design for Klaus is wonderful, imbuing him with fury and gentleness, a man of hardest iron whose face can light up a room. He’s what Batman would be with joy. And some peyote. The pacing, while dynamic, never throws anything at you from out of nowhere; there’s always a solid escalation to every encounter. As one would expect, the color palette is vibrant and used to embellish each character’s panels, with subtle notes within multi-character scenes pushing or pulling us along their emotional journeys.
This is one series that I enjoyed top to bottom, and even though I was collecting it through the summer (I have strict rules on Christmas in all forms; it can exist between the day after Thanksgiving until January 6th and no longer on either side.), I couldn’t wait for each issue to drop. This hardcover is a beautiful edition that, as a whole, tells a remarkable and highly enthralling and entertaining story and will be fantastic to pull off of the shelf when winter’s dark heart envelopes us all.
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