Title: Krampus: The Yule Lord.
Publisher: Harper Voyager.
Release Date: October 30th, 2012.
My Overall Rating:
To be stripped away of your whole raison d’être can be quite a nihilistic experience. And for it to be done by erasing your existence for centuries can be traumatic on one’s consciousness, especially if you once reigned and embraced a life full of purpose. How does one even survive such a torment without walking away with a stinging sense of humiliation, defeat, and fury? For the Yule Lord, the answer lay in revenge. When the opportunity arises from the darkness of his prison, he will have had all the time in the world to have thought through his plans to resurface into the world of the living and return a favour to the one he now vows to be his eternal enemy: Santa Claus. Author and artist Brom (The Child Thief, Slewfoot) offers a dark urban fantasy retelling of a formidable and famous mythological figure in his stand-alone novel Krampus: The Yule Lord.
What is Krampus: The Yule Lord about? In the quiet and small Boone County, West Virginia, resides Jesse Burwell Walker, a struggling songwriter and, at times, a drug dealer for the General, who can’t seem to get his life together as his still-supposed-wife Linda and lovely little daughter Abigail live under the care of the corrupt and aging cop Dillard, suspected of allegedly killing his first wife. On Christmas Eve, his life, however, is dramatically transformed when he witnesses devilish creatures known as Krampus’s Belsnickels chase after a red-suited man and his eight reindeer through the sky. In the midst of their battle, a giant sack falls not too far from him and is soon his for the taking but what follows leads him into the hands of the Yule Lord as he embarks on a vicious journey of revenge where the line between good and evil will be blurred.
“Your dreams are your spirit, your soul, and without them you are dead. You must guard your dreams. Always. Lest someone steal them from you. I know what it is to have your dreams stolen. I know what it is to be dead. Guard your dreams. Always guard your dreams.”— Brom
Writer and artist Brom does a fantastic job in pairing the fantastical aspects, drawn upon the pagan roots of Krampus’s character and Norse mythology, with the familiar human environment filled with broken and corrupt characters, and that without taking into account his splendid artwork of character designs included within this book. While the story does take its time before getting to its more entertaining parts, its occasional dive into gory action sequences are riveting, to say the least, considering that the plot doesn’t fully embrace its potential horror to leave room for a narrative centered around hope, dreams, life, and second chances. Some of its dearer instances of character development, although it is worth mentioning that no particular key character gives any reason to empathize with them, can sometimes be quite awkward, but they remain necessary to simmer in the central themes of this story.
The core narrative isn’t all that sophisticated but sufficiently absorbing and well-paced to keep readers engaged. Krampus’s character remains the story’s life buoy as he serves as a vessel for reflection on tradition, past values, and pagan beliefs. Although he’s most compelling when he loses control, unleashing hell on those who can’t defend themselves, having him build his new purpose in life around revenge and in unmasking Santa Claus’s secrets makes for an engaging read. The story is also filled with humour, especially the banter between characters who don’t necessarily see eye to eye, which sometimes works while at other times further corroborates the weirdness of this urban fantasy world. While still very much enjoyable from cover to cover, its best moments lie in its fantasy elements (again, not really horror) more than its human drama.
Krampus: The Yule Lord is an entertaining yet strangely hopeful modern retelling of the mythological creature’s story through revenge, dreams, and second chances.