by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora
“Untold stories” is nearly a genre all by itself. With the increase in popularity in retelling classic fables, and revisiting characters of recognizable fairy tales, it should be no surprise that even Santa Claus may have an unknown origin. Putting Grant Morrison at the helm of writing duties for such a story, however, is going to turn some heads. Here, Morrison teams up with Dan Mora to bring readers up to speed on how the jolly old man started down this path of gift giving.
The cover of Klaus #1, along with the first few images of the story, sends a very specific and very intense vibe to this untold beginning. Readers may be expecting a story filled with violence. Mora’s depiction of the man is that of a towering, muscular individual who is built to survive the unpredictable terrain of a snowy wilderness. Despite such early indicators that this story is to be one of great war, the ensuing tale is rather far from that. The story focuses in on the bearded man as he makes his way into the town of Grimsvig to trade some of his items for food. Instead, he finds a very hostile environment, populated mostly by guards who have decided that his items are now property of the Baron. There is no sense of glad tidings or merry men in this remote village. Instead, the rule of the Baron and Lord Magnus scoffs at the very notion of fairness and joy.
Morrison’s approach to the issue is someone restrained, all things considered. Despite unfair treatment and some challenging situations, a large portion of the issue feels a bit uneventful. It is possible that the name and history of the author might affect how readers view the story and its rather benign plot for much of the first issue. Klaus is a well-meaning character, though very little is explored in his personality or motivations. His displeasure with the state of Grimsvig and his outrage and the treatment of his things and children offer glimpses, but little else about the central character. Despite this, Dan Mora’s artwork is rather beautiful. The snowy landscape is gorgeous and the book need offer little more than its scenery and setting to be a book worth picking up. There is something classic about the colors and construction. Mora’s artwork is the closest thing to feeling like a story meant to be related to Santa Claus or the Christmas holiday.
All bets are off when Klaus picks up his woodwind instrument and decides that playing a tune will be the thing to take his mind off the villagers and their present plight. Suddenly, the book feels like something readers might expect from Morrison. Magical beings appear and Mora fills the pages in fascinating and dizzying colors. The sequence is abrupt and mesmerizing and engaging enough to draw skeptical readers in for what may come next month. While it remains to be seen just how this will all lead to the recognizable figure people know today, the caliber of art and impressive ending are certainly enough to come back for issue #2.