The good guys are in bad shape as writer Grant Morrison and artist Dan Mora raise the stakes in "Klaus" #6. Morrison's spellbinding script seamlessly picks up from the action of the last issue, and it's clear Klaus is in no condition to fight. This issue is all about Magnus, however, who completes his final, irredeemable decent into madness as the demon is unleashed from the mines.
Morrison's rich characterizations are on full display: Magnus is cocky in his overconfidence, Dagmar is resolved in her determination and Klaus is desperate to heal and help. Despite the near-constant action, Morrison offers brief moments of character development that further endear readers to the cast members and their impending fates. In addition to the human conflicts, Morrison establishes a supernatural element early on with Magnus' trips into the mines, which come to the forefront in this issue. No longer is this story a simple power struggle between two childhood rivals; the balance of power in issue #6 tips as the hungry demon stalks the castle. Emotionally heavy, its arrival is a lot like that moment in "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" when Han Solo is frozen in carbonite and the rebels realize they're really screwed.
Dan Mora's impeccable art is a striking tale of fire and ice. Interior scenes that focus on Magnus feature fire and the deep reds associated with it, while Klaus' scenes spotlight snow, ice and shades of blue that echo the pure chill of winter; it's the perfect artistic contrast to their opposing natures. From the lavish winter landscapes to his consistently detailed line work within the city, Mora brings to life a fully realized world that complements the characters so well, you'll have to read the book twice to catch all the nuances, like gently falling snow and the rivets on a dungeon door.
"Klaus" #6 is the penultimate book of this limited series, and that's exactly what I don't like about it; as much as I want to know how the good guys are going to save the day, I don't want to see it end. "Klaus" is a masterful reimagining of Santa's origins as told for grown-ups. This definitely isn't your innocent Rankin/Bass "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" rendition of the story -- and issue #6 sets up what will have to be a concussive supernatural conclusion in the final issue.