“KRAMPUS: SHADOW OF SAINT NICHOLAS” (Comic Book Review)Book and Comic Reviews,Books/Art/Culture,News Ken W. Hanley
There’s a certain magic in retaining talent from film to comics when it comes to graphic novel tie-ins as opposed to attempting to replicate the magic with new parties. When a film or franchise presents a specific atmosphere, sense of humor and logic, those who know it best can do the best job at carrying that continuity to the page, allowing the illustrators and colorists to do their own thing when it comes to the visual side of things. And with KRAMPUS: SHADOW OF SAINT NICHOLAS, that’s very much the truth as the inclusion of Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields and Todd Casey ensured the voice and viscera of the film are reflected in this universe-building graphic novel.
Following three different stories existing in the same world as its cinematic counterpart during a rather creepy December 23rd, SHADOW OF SAINT NICHOLAS retains the film’s biting satire, mischievous edge and even its sense of character with its fair share of emotional moments. Written by Casey, Shields and Laura Shields based off of stories by Casey, Dougherty and Shields, these stories avoid trudging up the same territory as the film while touching upon some of the same moral lessons. If anything, SHADOW OF SAINT NICHOLAS feels as if it were a modern, holiday-centric spin on the Brothers Grimm with a healthy sense of Dickens to keep things from getting more intense than the established universe might allow.
The first story is likely the most similar to the film, carrying the most amount of humor and a fair visual continuity as Casey and Shields present a drunken, down-and-out mall santa who becomes an unlikely hero for a department store that comes under attack by Krampus and his minions. With art by Christian DiBari and colors by Mike Spicer, this story benefits from the format as the protagonist (who is established as a war veteran) get to dole out all manner of punishment against Krampus’ array of terrifying toys in a way that is satisfying, inventive and not bound to a time frame or rating. Furthermore, the department store setting evokes a unique facet of Christmas that the KRAMPUS film touches upon yet never fully examines, and almost provides a GREMLINS-esque nature to the human retaliation against the underlings.
The second story is the most cinematic of the three, following a police officer and a burglar who come under attack from Krampus’ elves, despite being tied together by a tragic secret. With a unique narrative structure, fantastic writing and amusing action beats, the story has a greater emotional weight than the ones around it as well, especially once the big narrative twist comes into play. And the art by Maan House and colors by Guy Major feel much more chaotic and detail-oriented than the first story, conveying a larger arc than one might normally get from the anthology format.
The third story is a twisted take on A CHRISTMAS CAROL, with a local rich man who, after a short siege from Krampus, reflects upon past, present and potentially future Christmas horrors. With art by Stuart Saygar and colors by Guy Major, this story is the most markedly different of the bunch, with rougher, more exaggerated illustrations that give the content- which is the most adult and grueling of the bunch- an edgier, more visceral atmosphere. The stories are then all tied together by an extended epilogue that serves as the fourth segment, with art by Michael Montenat retaining elements of the work that came before it and surprisingly leaving the comic on a high note, or at least a higher note than the KRAMPUS film.
Overall, KRAMPUS: SHADOW OF SAINT NICHOLAS is a fantastic gathering of tales in its own right and an even better extension of the property. Unbound by the limits of filmmaking, the writers and artists go for broke in telling these weird, wicked stories in a fashion that feels wholly appropriate to the art form. It’s definitely worth the price, and this writer wouldn’t be surprised if this story doesn’t enter comic fans’ holiday horror collection alongside THE LAST CHRISTMAS.