(W) Grant Morrison (A) Dan Mora
One of the genuinely pleasant surprises in recent years was the original Klaus miniseries which ran during 2015-2016. Billed (rightfully so) as “Santa Claus: Year One,” writer Grant Morrison took readers on a stunningly straightforward, but engrossing tale of the man who would inspire a Christmas icon. In the process, many readers were introduced to Eisner winning artist Dan Mora. Now with the origin story out of the way, Morrison and Mora have set their sights on delivering the craziest holiday tale they can muster by taking on the Coca-Cola marketing machine.
Morrison is no stranger to counter-culture and taking shots at the commercialization of pretty much everything. In this holiday special, he shows his outright disdain for how December consumerism has replaced community and familial gatherings. The fact that Morrison views traditional activities like spending time with family as counter-culture is a damning indictment of today’s society, but he does not blame the people. Rather, he points to the manipulation of the masses by corporations as the cause of our cultural rot.
As alluded to before, Morrison sees the Coca-Cola Company as the embodiment of our cultural tailspin. The casual reader does not have to dig too deep to draw parallels between the fictional “Pola-Cola” and the soft drink that, according to Forbes, is among the five most powerful brands in the world. Obviously, there are the similar names, but both seek to play on nostalgia while using the idea of “Christmas” as a means to increase their profits and global influence. There is even a reference to bringing back the “classic formula,” which not only references Coca-Cola’s original secret ingredient (cocaine) but also the New Coke debacle of the 1980s.
The surface level similarities end there, unless Coca-Cola is secretly kidnapping children for aliens in exchange for high-tech weaponry. But even then, the villainous plot to corrupt the idea of Santa Claus (and ultimately, Christmas) in order to introduce and trademark a new version is plausible in today’s environment. What makes this Klaus one-shot succeed is that Morrison and Mora inject all of this commentary into the issue through dialogue and visual cues without it being the central conceit of the story. It can enhance one’s reading experience, and it can spark interesting discussions, but it is unnecessary to actually enjoy the comic. That’s because at the end of the day, Klaus and the Crisis in Xmasville is a yuletide superhero story, and a damn fine one.
Morrison has never been one to apologize for the campiness and tropes inherent in superhero comics. Rather, he shines a light on elements that other writers have tried to mask through a sheen of grim and grittiness. Just because this comics stars Santa instead of Superman doesn’t mean readers should expect anything less. Whereas the original Klaus was a relatively grounded tale heightened by the introduction of some sparse magical elements, Crisis in Xmasville is an egg-nog induced acid trip with alternate dimensions, evil doppelgangers, zombie mall-Santas, and flying saucers. Using an unremarkable location like Delaware as a setting only adds to the insanity.
Equal credit is due to Dan Mora for bringing Morrison’s ideas to life in such a visually captivating manner. Just as readers can pick at the different aspects of Morrison’s script, they can become endlessly lost in Mora’s artwork. As the characters experience dream sequences, jumping through portals, or even exchange dialogue, the reader is immersed into that part of the story; the experiences of the characters are shared with the reader. Even as the artwork begins to confuse or overwhelm the reader, it is done so in service of the story.
BOOM! Studios seems to have developed a new tradition in producing a new Klaus one-shot each year. Morrison and Mora have truly captured lightning in a bottle, and each time they revisit these characters is an event worth celebrating. From the first page to the last, Klaus and the Crisis in Xmasville #1 is batshit crazy in all the right ways.