Holiday specials are pretty fun. The spirit of whatever season tends to be infectious, whether it’s Christmas specials in December or checking out anything from the horror genre around Halloween time. They’re especially fun in comic books. Sure, TV episodes are nice and all, but it’s hard to match the thrill of something like the Larfleeze Christmas Special, just because it’s not done quite as often. There have been comics about Santa Claus in the past, but that kind of thing tends to get old once New Year comes around. People may not take down their Christmas decorations until March, but they do stop celebrating eventually. So if you want to extend a holiday comic past the holiday season, how do you keep it fresh? By focusing on the wild parts of the season. Say, maybe, an old German figure that plays bad cop to Santa, a demonic creature that beats or kidnaps the naughty children and tosses them into Hell. This is Krampus!
The story begins in Bari, Italy, where a minor holiday figure named “Belsnickel” is attacked by a horde of sugarplum fairies, who steal the bones of the original Saint Nicholas. St. Nick’s bones, as it turns out, are a magical power source for the Secret Society of Santa Clauses, a global organization of elderly gift-givers in red. With the entire society trapped in the North Pole with their powers cut off, they lack the ability to retrieve the sacred bones, and so are forced to take drastic action. They release the Krampus, long imprisoned, and attach an explosive device to his chest with the condition of his freedom in exchange for the bones. In addition, this explosive is a “Naughty Bomb”, sensing when he does something evil, to keep him on mission. And so the German beast takes off into the night, on a globe-trotting quest to regain the power of the Santas and his freedom.
Krampus! is a fascinating series, one that makes use of holiday-related lore from all over the world. In addition to the Santas, you have Old Man Winter, Jack Frost, and surprisingly, Old West gunslinger Doc Holliday. It’s a story full of mystery, intrigue, and danger, both in the Krampus’s exploits and with a power struggle among the Secret Society of Santa Clauses. The search for the bones of St. Nicholas is a genuinely interesting one, if only to learn about new holiday characters. This is not some feel-good special, this is action movie story with a festive coat of paint, and it is fantastic. Krampus himself is a fun character, one who has his own ideas regarding good and evil, and with a wit as sharp as his horns. The story as a whole never takes itself too seriously, with writer Brian Joines including lots of quips which never break up the flow of the action.
And the action is great. Artist Dean Kotz gives the series a nice, rough visual to it, with some sketchy lines for texture and thick outlines around all the characters and objects. It’s very clear to make out what’s going on in the action sequences from panel to panel, never leaving the reader asking how they got from point A to point C. The character designs are pretty simple for the most part, but they don’t need to be complex. Very small changes, such as clothing or differences in stature give every character a unique look, and it’s especially impressive with the Secret Society of Santa Clauses, who all look similar by design, albeit altered to represent their home country. The colors of Ron Riley always fit the scenes as needed, and whether it’s in the North Pole, the desert, or a volcano, you can feel the heat of the environment.
Overall, Krampus! is just a fun comic. While the path the plot takes is somewhat predictable (there are a lot of action movie clichés you can see coming from a mile away), the world, characters, and humor all make it stand out. The creators have stated that they would like to make more of the series in the future, but due to low sales, it’s not certain if we’ll ever see more beyond the initial five issues. But if you’re looking for a fun action book, you can’t go wrong with this one.