In issue #3, Grant Morrison and Dan Mora’s “Klaus” remains a perfectly enjoyable take on the Santa Claus mythos. The plot is hopping, the world is interesting and the characters are consistent, but I still don’t find myself fully engaged by the story. Despite some clever tweaks on the famous legend, the central conflict is very by-the-book, and the reader hasn’t yet been invited into the characters’ inner lives. “Klaus” #3 is undeniably well executed, but I’d love to see its point-of-view grow stronger in the second half of the miniseries.
To create the world of “Klaus,” Mora balances medieval scruffiness with fairytale hyperbole, and the result is really appealing. Cartoonishly exaggerated characters like the Baron, with his enveloping hood and sunken eyes, share space with more realistically rendered figures like the guards and Klaus himself. This approach matches the tone of Morrison’s script, which moves from the slyly silly to the semi-serious. For example, in a scene where Klaus tries to find a new way to deliver toys to the city’s children, Mora exaggerates the chimneys in the foreground just enough to make me laugh. He has a great sense of when to push the different elements in his art — the fantastic, the realistic, the funny and more.
Mora is similarly versatile with his coloring. While most of the book is in the traditional medieval village palette, he goes full ’70s when the spirits of ice and forest arrive. I just loved this wonderfully unexpected, quirky touch. In addition, Mora and letterer Ed Dukeshire have plenty of fun with the lettering for the Baron’s mysterious ally/boss locked in the rock. (The “Hur hur hur hur” effect in particular had me grinning.)
As far as the plot, “Klaus” #3 keeps the conflict escalating and moving exactly as a middle issue should. Klaus returns to the city to confront the Baron in more dramatic, direct fashion, while Morrison also hints at the Baron’s underlying motives and Klaus and Dagmar’s history together. However, I still don’t quite know Klaus and Dagmar as people, so it remains difficult to invest in them. The intimate unhappiness of the miner Gunnar’s house impacted me far more than either of their beats in this issue.
Klaus in particular doesn’t get many small scenes, so his motives remain elusive. He comes close in a few scenes with Lilli, but the dialogue always get practical just before it gets interesting. For instance, the reflection “I was happy out on the ice, right? No responsibilities… no evil tyrants — or their wives…” segues into “If this is what the spirits of ice and forests want, then let it be done. Show me the next steps.” I’d love to see just a bit more of Klaus.
Overall, though, “Klaus” #3 is a fun read that continues the pleasant, inoffensive story of its predecessors. I’m curious for issue #4, and I’ll check in to see where it goes, but I’d really love to see this series have more to say about its themes and characters in the issues to come.