As our loyal readers know I have recently become an official reviewer for Zenescope Comics. This means that I receive PDF copies of everything that they release. Obviously I can’t personally review everything that they release, but as long as I hit a certain number each quarter they’re cool with it. I’m bringing another regular writer on board to help with that, so we’ll be putting them up a bit more frequently than that.
In this Comic Book Wednesday I’m taking a look at the Grimm Fairy Tales 2014 Holiday Edition. It’s available today at your Local Comic Book Shop!
This one is a tale of Krampus. It features Zenescope’s usual dedication to clear storytelling. It’s particularly notable in this issue, as it features a story within a story that ends up affecting the story.
Before I attempt to explain that sentence, let me address the popularity of Krampus.
A gross generalization of Krampus is that it is a creature that is the antithesis of Santa Claus – around Christmas time it punishes the naughty children as opposed to rewarding the nice ones. The roots of the legend seem to be Germanic, though it its involvement in the holidays are spread throughout Europe. In the past several years the Krampus has gained a higher profile in America, to the point where there are Krampus pub crawls and Krampus t-shirts and all sorts of lovely, crass commercialization that we Americans do best.
Including comic books. Ahem.
I have to admit, though, that the tale of Krampus fits perfectly into the world of Grimm Fairy Tales. I mean, they almost had to do a Krampus story. And the nice thing is that Zenescope has put their own twist on it. And by “their own twist” I don’t mean that Krampus is a hot chick with horns in a miniskirt (not that there’s anything wrong with that); we get a unique version of the Krampus origin story that weaves in with the ongoing GFT narrative.
The kids from the various realms are at school and it’s Christmastime, so Sela – the seeming main protagonist of the entire Zene-verse – decides to regale everyone with the true story of Krampus. The Holiday Edition works as a standalone issue, but it does feature elements from the ongoing narrative of the main Grimm Fairy Tales book. I think a new reader might be slightly confused by some of the references, but overall you should be able to enjoy this one on its own merits. And there’s a decent chance you might be enticed to check out the main book just to see what is going on.
This comic book has exactly the right amount of words. That might seem like a weird thing to say, but take a look at your comics and see how many of them have way too many words. And I don’t mean that there’s too much reading involved, I mean that the word balloons are covering the art up to the point where you kind of wonder why the art is there. The Holiday Edition is what I, personally, feel like a comic book should look like. Enough of the story is told with the pictures that an overabundance of dialogue, thought balloons, and narrative squares is unnecessary.
Side Note: I don’t know that “narrative squares” is the right term. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure it isn’t because the things I am referring to are usually rectangles.
The art is nice. The characters are all distinctive and easy to tell apart. Facial expressions are easy to read. And it’s never difficult to tell where the story is going. In thrity-six pages of story I never once had to pause to figure out which panel to go to next or what was happening within the narrative. By now you guys should know that solid visual storytelling is a BIG part of my rating of comic books, and Zenescope has yet to disappoint.
I’m also impressed with the backgrounds of the Krampus story. Rarely are there panels with blank space or colors. In almost every panel there is some sort of scenery behind whatever action is taking place. There are numerous panels in the surrounding story (back at the school) that are empty behind the characters, but I feel like this was done to emphasize the characters themselves. I’m not necessarily saying that it’s okay, but I get it.
While the Holiday Edition does fit directly into the ongoing Grimm Fairy Tales narrative, it isn’t as essential as the Halloween Special. There aren’t any major revelatory character moments and I think you’d be safe skipping this one even if you are into the main book.
But if you’re a fan of Christmas comics or holiday specials in general, you won’t be disappointed by this one. Zenescope does their normal job of very solid storytelling along with nice art and an interesting twist on a familiar narrative. If you’re going out to your Local Comic Book Shop today I recommend you pick it up and give the Grimm world a try.