"Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Legendary Comics
Written by Zach Shields, Todd Casey, and Laura Shields
Illustrated by Christian Dibari, Maan House, Stuart Sayger, and Michael Montenat
2015, 128 Pages
Graphic novel released on November 24th, 2015
Christmas' other icon has been making the rounds in recent years. It's as if everyone suddenly remembered Krampus from folklore. Now he's popping up everywhere, including the big screen. To coincide with the release of the Krampus film, director Michael Dougherty helped organize an anthology comic set in the same world. The stories all occur on the same night in the same town, connecting to one another as the mythical monster makes his way through the streets with his army of minions.
If you're unfamiliar with the story behind Krampus, you will not find it in this graphic novel. Outside of Dougherty's introduction, there is no explanation as to who or what this creature is, what it does, where it comes from, or why. I have not seen the film, so I can't comment on how it compares or intersects with the events on the screen, but as a comic it does not stand on its own.
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Krampus looks suitably terrifying in his long dark robes and his huge horns rising up to the sky, but he doesn't really do much. He shows up and looks menacing, freaking everyone out. The real terror comes in his horde of misfit toys and snowmen. The artists did a fantastic job bringing these things to life. From nutcrackers with razor sharp teeth to savage teddy bears to freakish elves wielding knives, these underlings are the true horror of the book.
The first three stories are connected, although not in a clean way. For example, there's a moment in the first tale where a robot explodes for seemingly no reason. You find out why in the third story, but by that point it just feels like the creators were trying to tie everything together in some way. The second tale stands on its own a lot more and it's better because of it. It's definitely the highlight of the book, featuring a police officer stumbling upon the man who killed her sister in a hit-and-run accident some years prior. She struggles to decide what's right while Krampus' henchmen run through the street wreaking havoc. The monsters are the least important here, merely serving as a catalyst to move the characters through the town.
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Maan House illustrates that segment (I really wish they had titles), and does so brilliantly. There are some terrifying snowmen that come to life, ready to rip people apart. They have these sickening faces with jagged teeth. Their arms are spindly and sharp. They'll make you think twice the next time you decide to build a snowman.
What's very odd about Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas is the ending. It effectively neutralizes the events of the entire book. It's like the creators wanted to make a horror comic, but chickened out at the last minute and decided to make a wholesome Christmas fable. It really takes the punch out of the whole thing. The final chapter might as well have featured one of the characters waking up and realizing it was all a dream. It's basically the same thing.
Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas has some pretty cool elements, but it ultimately falls flat. It's a monster comic without any depth. You get no real information on Krampus or his actions. The three main stories are derivative of others that came before them like Bad Santa and A Christmas Carol. It’s a pretty blatant take on the latter, complete with a visit to Christmas Past and a bitter old man that learns to love Christmas. The big plus here is the design for Krampus' minions, which brings some much needed horror to the Christmas holiday.