Klaus has been a fascinating title to watch for the last few years, going back to its inception in 2015. Dubbed Grant Morrison’s take on Santa Claus and brought to life by a relatively new artist, Dan Mora, it was always a curious project. Despite the magnificent talent on-board, it’s fair to say that no one truly expected it to become what it has today. What began as a simple Santa origin story told across seven issues has morphed into a sweeping superhero universe with its own rich history, mythology and cast of characters spanning decades. And at the center of this ambitious universe, always, is the titular Klaus, the beloved Santa Claus.
The first Klaus series sought to chronicle his origins, playing him as a Robin Hood-esque figure with shamanic ties, essentially being his Year One or Birthright. The follow-up The Witch of Winter one-shot was effectively a Rebirth tale, with Klaus returning to Earth after having been away on the Moon for decades and having to deal with certain changes. The aptly titled sequel one-shot, Crisis in Xmasville, was very much a Crisis story. This year’s one-shot, following the annual tradition of a Klaus story every Christmas, is very much Morrison and Mora’s take on Ragnarok.
Morrison’s always described the series as a superhero take on Santa Claus, so it’s incredibly fitting and in fact, a lot of the fun and joy of Klaus stories to see how they differ from the superhero fiction we’ve come to expect. Morrison and Mora always bring something radically new or wondrously fresh to the table with each installment, giving readers a true Christmas story every year. Crying Snowman is no different and it may just be the best story the team’s done to date.
The story begins in classic Klaus tradition, with a ‘Once upon a time’ lettered in black over a caption box made to look like parchment paper. Covered by red borders and bearing a pinch of white, the box bears Klaus’ iconic Grimsvig colors of red and white. The only story to not open in this fashion remains the previous story, Crisis on Xmasville, where the choice was deliberate due to the content and the horrific opening sequence beyond Klaus’ realm of control.
Then we’re introduced to the titular crying snowman, as he sobs in sorrow, with blue captions in white letters and borders showcasing his thoughts to the reader. Klaus then appears to reassure the snowman and we get a gorgeous shot of the hero grinning at the reader. There’s such warmth in this image, as Klaus practically radiates it, an effect enhanced by the coloring choice of gold around him, as the sun shines bright. It’s a powerful and succinct image that introduces us to Klaus and immediately gets across who he is. Beyond that, through out the opening, there’s a push and pull, a tension between heat and cold that is setup, a theme that is very prevalent in Klaus stories. The title implies it, but it’s not until we see the heart of the sun melt the cold of the snow that it’s expressed rather overtly. Klaus’ genuine warmth, care and kindness as well as the cold/heat theme are incredibly vital to the entire story, which is why this opening works so well, conveying everything necessary in very few panels.
The story then moves back in time as we’re told of the events that led up to this opening, allowing Morrison, Mora and Dukeshire to later return to this moment and bookend the story perfectly. The book cuts to Klaus and his trusty wolf Lilli fighting off a giant Tree-Clops (a one-eyed tree monster), only for them to discover that the tree is merely one of many amongst an alien invasion force. A giant comet is seen above the earth, one that arrives every 1500 years and last appeared during the mythic Ragnarok, where the Norse gods met their end. Except the comet is not just a simple comet, but the vehicle of the Norse monsters described in Ragnarok. They’re back and seemingly, so is Ragnarok, the end of all things.
This is when we’re joined by two long awaited and teased characters– Yule Goat, the Scandinavian Santa and Father Frost (aka Mos Gerila), the Romanian Santa . Depicted initially in a trophy room of Klaus’ old workshop alongside a whole host of other Santas, during The Witch of Winter, this is their proper and true debut. Crisis on Xmasville saw Grandfather Frost (aka Ded Moroz), the Russian Santa and his granddaughter Snowmaiden debut properly, so the team is slowly but surely building out the legion of Santas and teasing things to come.
But rather than just the future, the past is another intriguing question in the Klausverse. Klaus battled the Pola Cola Corp in the ’30’s, dealt with Martians in a town during the 60’s, fought his dark doppelganger from the evil universe under his own universe in the 80’s and then was away for a few decades on the Moon until his return in modern day. And it’s really the period on the moon that’s endlessly fascinating, as ‘The Lunar Civil War’ has been a major tease through the stories, with many wondering ‘What even happened up there?’. Klaus has a rich and long super-heroic history spanning decades, with many mysteries and stories to be uncovered and told. This is a massive source of his appeal and Morrison and Mora are aware of this, which is they’ve put in such great efforts to create this textured world and history for the character. Playing him almost akin to The Doctor, they’ve made him a delightfully intriguing figure.
Getting back to the other santas– Yule Goat, who is both an old dwarf and a talking goat is able to transform into a hulking goat being while Father Frost is a shirtless gift-giving hero. They all identify as gift-givers and alongside Klaus, they feel only they may be able to halt Ragnarok. Splitting up, Frost heads off to Mars to defend the galaxy from the upcoming cosmic Ragnarok, while Goat heads off to the Moon to check on defenses before joining Frost on Mars. Klaus, meanwhile, alongside Lilli opts to go to Titan, where Animatropolis, the city of automatons and The Cosmic Clock is located.
This is when Klaus runs into the aforementioned crying snowman, who struggles with the reality of being a snowman and cannot recall who he was, save for very brief and occasional flashes. Klaus offers him a ride to Titan, where it’s colder, since the cold helps his strength and mind and could lead to his memory returning. Being gifted with the power to be able to tell people apart, as well as who’s nice and who’s naughty, Klaus lets informs the Snowman that his name was and is Sam. Thus Sam the Snowman and Klaus ride out to Titan, where the invasion force has already struck. Klaus arrives to meet Hyrm of The Nightborn, lord of the undead and informs him that he’s there to talk, not to fight. Again, that’s simply who Klaus is. But the words fall on deaf ears as Hyrm exclaims that ages ago, those were the words of his people. Accusing earth of sending warriors who pillaged their property and murdered The Nightborn, who came in peace, Hyrm burns with anger. With Klaus struggling in battle, Sam sacrifices himself to take down Hyrm and saves Klaus, with Klaus managing to save him in turn. Though it all proves futile, as Yule Goat has been beaten on Mars, while Father Frost lies dead and they’ve completely lost.
Sam the snowman, who has been slowly remembering his past, however, has an idea. Running with Sam’s impossible idea, Klaus turns The Cosmic Clock of reality backwards, effectively going back in time to fix things. Klaus gains a day, a time before all the events of the story and he begins his plans. Arriving ahead, Klaus messages The Nightborn and promises them he’ll change their minds. Klaus tells them he isn’t there to fight, but to grant them a gift. Realizing that the Norse Gods waged cruel war against the peaceful Nightborn ages ago, Klaus proposes a second chance. The Nightborn, who come every 1500 years to our solar system may take some of the sun’s heat back with them for their civilization, as they intended ages ago and they may do so freely. ‘There’s no need for vengeance,’ Klaus tells them, offering them the bright power of radiance.
Resolving the matter, Klaus heads home with Sam, with Sam having gained back all his memories. He was an adulterer and a man who lied to his son and he died when the Tree-clops’ arrived, being reborn as the snowman his son made. Then we finally loop back to the beginning, as Sam the snowman dreads his rapid death, with him melting away under the sun’s heat. Klaus merely chuckles and reveals to him that in the day they gained back, he managed to arrive early and save Sam before his death. Shocked at this revelation and having been on this journey with Klaus, Sam reveals to Klaus that he does not deserve this second chance. Klaus doesn’t agree but adds that even if he doesn’t, his son, who is nice, does and his wish was to be with his father. Reminding Sam that he’s been around a long time, Klaus says that once upon a time Sam was a nice kid, too. Klaus departs, leaving a safe Sam at his house with the melted snowman he once inhabited. The melting is a symbolic event signifying change and evolution, which also plays into the cold/heat theme of Klaus. Sam’s son soon emerges and upon seeing his father, runs up to him. Sam embraces his son lovingly, telling him that together they’ll build a better Snowman.
Morrison and Mora have, through The Crying Snowman, taken the concept of Ragnarok and subverted absolutely all expectations with it. It’s an alien invasion narrative, it’s the apocalypse story, but it resolves through kindness, forgiveness, communication, love and faith. It’s as big and epic as any DC or Marvel comics event in sheer scope, with Dan Mora’s dynamic and kinetic artwork bringing everything from bag-pipe flies to cosmic armadas to life. And yet, it resolves in a way so few of those stories ever do. From the larger macro-story of second-chances, redemption and forgiveness even in the face of the end of days to the micro-story with Sam, where a man who can’t even forgive himself must be, the story beats with a great human heart. For all its cosmic wonder and world-building, its a touching story about a father and a son, with Santa accomplishing granting a wish. It’s magical and beautiful but more than anything, it’s a true Christmas miracle.
Klaus: The Crying Snowman #1 continues Morrison and Mora’s ambitious yet emotional saga of stories about their contemporary superhero Santa. Packed with Morrison’s imaginative power an emotional heart and told beautifully through the dynamism and stunning skill of Dan Mora, this is an absolute must-buy. The Crying Snowman is the perfect Christmas story to read with people of all ages.