Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas (Graphic Novel Review)

PLOT: Told in four chapters, this anthology comic book set in the world of Michael Dougherty's upcoming film KRAMPUS follows a handful of characters through one terrifying Christmas Eve as they struggle to survive the punishments doled out by Santa Claus's dark counterpart.

REVIEW: In 2009, writer/director Michael Dougherty's long-awaited horror anthology TRICK 'R TREAT finally reached home video and instantly became a Halloween classic. We'll have to wait until December 4th to see if Dougherty's latest directorial effort, KRAMPUS, will be embraced as a new Christmas horror classic, but one thing that sets it apart from direct comparisons with TRICK 'R TREAT is the fact that KRAMPUS is not an anthology film. However, Dougherty and his co-screenwriters Todd Casey and Zach Shields did realize that there are many tales that can be told about the eponymous creature, thus the creation of the anthology graphic novel tie-in KRAMPUS: SHADOW OF SAINT NICHOLAS.

The title isn't a reference to the actual shadow of Santa Claus, it's a description of the Krampus, Santa's demonic counterpart who punishes naughty children. For this graphic novel, which is split into four chapters, Dougherty, Casey, and Shields came up with three intertwining stories dealing with the Krampus and its minions, with Casey and Shields writing the chapters and receiving an assist from Laura Shields on chapter two.

Chapter one was easily my favorite of the bunch, and was a story I could imagine making an really fun movie on its own. Actually, I don't want to just imagine it, I want to see this segment as a movie! At its center is an alcoholic Vietnam veteran who hits the "magic grape juice" a little too hard while working as a mall Santa. When seemingly apocalyptic snow conditions blow in, this guy is trapped in the mall with a couple of co-workers, a group of children... and a small army of wooden mask-wearing elves, who set about creating killer toys to send after the people trapped in the establishment.

This chapter had me laughing out loud with the drunken Santa's antics and dialogue, the action was plentiful, and the artwork by Christian Dibari looked fantastic. Each chapter was handled by a different artist, and Dibari's art worked the best for me out of all of them. The only problem with chapter one is that is builds up a WTF non-ending. A character says exactly what I was thinking in the moment: "I don't understand what just happened."

Chapter one was so great, at least up to the ending, that I couldn't help but feel like the rest of the book went downhill from there. It never again achieves the level of fun that first segment reaches.

Chapter two centers on a police officer teaming up with a man she has every right to hate so they can battle those evil little elves, and some strange winged creatures, side-by-side. While the art by Maan House is fine for the most part, there were some confusing choices made, and I found the writing of this chapter to be a bit lackluster.

The art on chapter three was done by Stuart Sayger, and I wasn't a fan of his style, which could make even a normal little girl look like a hideous monster. The fact that all of these stories are tied together starts to become very clear in this one, which is basically the Krampus universe take on A Christmas Carol. The artwork and hallucinatory scenario really lost me as this story went on. I didn't enjoy it very much at all.

Things end on a positive note with chapter four, which wraps everything up with a neat little bow and was brought to the page with some nice artwork by Michael Montenat.

Overall, I found Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas to be a very mixed bag. Chapter one alone makes the book worth picking up, but the chapters that followed didn't offer much that I felt was worth sticking around for. Chapter two has a strong concept and some cool action beats, but the overall execution was underwhelming. Chapter three I could have done without entirely, while I appreciated chapter four largely because it makes up for the sour notes that all of the preceding chapters end on.

Reading this graphic novel both heightens my anticipation for the KRAMPUS film while also bringing some concerns to mind. I hope watching the movie will be a more satisfying experience than reading the book, and I hope it's more along the lines of chapter one than the others. One thing that the graphic novel really makes me look forward to seeing in the movie are the elves. If those ugly little buggers are as creepy on the screen as they are on the page, horror fans are in for a treat in December.

If you're really hyped for KRAMPUS and want to spend some extra time in its universe, I would recommend that you get the graphic novel. I would also recommend it to anyone who wants to see a 'Nam vet in a Santa suit do drunken battle with the forces of evil. If you don't fit into either of those categories, you'll probably be fine without reading Shadow of Saint Nicholas.

Published by Legendary Comics, Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas can be purchased on Amazon right now.

Extra Tidbit: Will you be reading Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas?



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