I had the honour of hosting the first Comic Book Club Christmas meal last week and chose the books to talk about over dinner.
My first pick, illustrated by my new favourite artist Seth Fisher was Vertigo Pop: Tokyo. Described by Tom, Dan and Kelv as cliched, mildly racist and borderline paedophilic. I quite enjoyed it. So full of festive cheer we pulled our crackers and moved on to my special Christmas pick, part one of Klaus by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora.
Described as Santa: Year One, after the famous Batman origins tale by Frank Miller, Klaus tells the story of how an itinerant trader with big muscles becomes Father Christmas. A little like A Boy Called Christmas but with added graphic violence and psychedelia.
Things didn’t start brilliantly. Tom thought perhaps that Grant Morrison had written it because he’d lost a bet. He described it as ‘generic fantasy’ with bits that were ‘kind of weird’. But for most of the group it just wasn’t ‘Grant Morrison enough.’
I argued that Morrison was at his best when he played it straight then pulled the rug from under you. The final scene in which Klaus brews up a broth filled with suspicious looking mushrooms and enters into some kind of mushroom assisted trance was a perfect example of this.
Kelv enjoyed the politics of Grimsvig, the town where Klaus is attacked after defending a group of children who are being attacked by armed guards for the crime of possessing toys.
Dan thought Klaus was OK, but was disappointed by the art. More specifically he thought the colouring rather lacklustre; he pointed out just how lovely the black and white art at the front and back of the book are compared with the versions inside.
But there was general admiration for Dan Mora’s double page spreads, particularly the backgrounds which had been invested with huge amounts of detail.
I liked it rather more than everyone else, particularly the trip sequence at the end. This is something of a Morrison trope and we were all expecting it, but here perhaps with the added element of Christmas I found it even more enjoyable than usual.
Particularly great was the page where Klaus awakes from his shroom hangover surrounded by hundreds of magical toys he has somehow brought to life.
Contrasting with this was a setting that appeared to be based on the northern territories in Game of Thrones. As you might expect this brought with it splashes of vividly rendered violence – most outrageously when Klaus kills and dismembers a bull reindeer.
I have since read issue two of Klaus and was pleased to see that it all shifts up a gear. Following his dreamtime Klaus is revived and sweeps into the city under cover of night, causing merry mayhem whilst delivering the town’s toyless children their magic new presents.
Morrison is merrily turning Klaus into a ‘Supergod’ like no other; he can turn enemies into snowmen and crush them with giant snowballs. A cross between Conan, Batman and Frosty the Snowman, Klaus is turning into a rather fun sort of superhero.