The Best Comics in December Part 1: Krampus Is Coming

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Look for Part 2 tomorrow.

Krampus #1: It seems like a weird time to start a Christmas series with Christmas being, you know, just now over, but there's no denying that Brian Joines has come up with a pretty damn fun book no matter the holiday season. In this world, Christmas is maintained not just by Santa Claus, but by a coalition of cultural takes on the character called The Secret Society of Santa Clauses. The Saints Nicholas find themselves in terrible danger of losing their magical abilities when a legion of sugar plum fairies under the employ of unknown forces steal the relics of the original Greek Saint.

In order to recover the bones, the Society releases the Krampus from his imprisonment... where he apparently spends most of his time watching Downton Abbey. The devilish spirit that punished the naughty back in antiquity has been under lock and key since the '50s, but agrees to solve the mystery in exchange for his freedom.

The whole thing is incredibly, some might even call it derivatively, Hellboy, but it's raucously fun for all that. With all the alternative fairy tale stuff that has become so popular over the last decade people still seem a little reluctant to tackle the mythology of Santa on the same scale. Joines does so with both scholarship and an eye for great storytelling.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Forever Evil: Justice League #26: Reading Marvel and DC lately is a lot like watching wrestling back in the '90s. The two keep spending all their energy on giant storylines involving dozens or hundreds of characters in an attempt to craft what is essentially comic book pay per views. DC's latest of these Forever Evil, where the evil alternative universe Justice league now rules the Earth.

It's been an interesting plot line, one that even allowed some rather nice looks at the villains of the DC universe, but it's been a study in very lopsided storytelling. Truth be told, with few exceptions Marvel does villain story lines better right now.

Still, I do love a good alternative universe origin story, and this Geoff Johns gives some great ones for Power Ring (Evil Green Lantern), Johnny Quick (Evil Flash), and a new female Atom. Power Ring is especially brilliant, as his ring gains recharging by psychologically torturing the weak-willed and cowardly Jordan, and Quick and Atomica start off their lives as vicious Mickey and Mallory Knox-esque spree killers and thieves. It's probably the best of the Forever Evil villain focuses so far, and definitely worth picking up.

Rating: 7 of 10

Piece continues on next page.

Manifest Destiny #2: In 1804 Thomas Jefferson employed Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend Second Lieutenant William Clark to scout out the newly purchased Louisiana Territory, otherwise known as the rest of freakin' America. The real life adventure has come down through American history as a tale of bravery, perseverance, and scientific discovery that was instrumental to the expansion of the young country.

In Chris Dingess' version, there are also minotaurs. Well, minobison because they're buffaloes, not bulls. Well, ameribison because it's America and not the land ruled by King Minos. Screw it, they're minotaurs, but buffaloes, OK? The point is, America is host to all kinds of strange monsters, and Jefferson knew that when he sent Lewis and Clark west to explore. That was their mission, to report on threats now within our borders.

It's a really thrilling book, full of blood and pulp fiction. Matthew Roberts' art in particular is out of this world, and brings a distinctly American vibe to the exploration of traditionally European-style monsters. If you can stomach the brutality of world, it can show you wonders.

Rating: 8 of 10

Wolvering Origins II #1: Though it divided fans greatly, I always liked the original Origin. Granted, no story was every going to live up to the mystery of Wolverine's early years that already existed in out heads, but Bill Jemas, Joe Quesada and Paul Jenkins did a more than passable job.

Now Kieron Gillen is back with Adam Kubert to continue the story. It's a minimalist setting, with Logan living with a wolf pack in Canada. He is more beast than man in this setting, having thrown off all trappings of humanity save for brief clothes. Otherwise, he is an animal who hunts to help the pack.

However, it all comes crashing down once again for the always-tragic Wolverine when a lost polar bear ends this existence in a bloody massacre. Logan pops his claws for the fight, but he has lost everything one more time. The complete lack of spoken dialogue and the almost-caveman feel of the book is a cunning new direction, and seems to hold promise of a new way of looking at our favorite X-Man. We'll see how it plays out.

Rating: 7 of 10

Hulk: Agents of S.M.A.S.H: #1 Today's kid entry ties in with the new Hulk show on Disney XD. I'll say one thing for Disney: they're not letting their Marvel properties lie around.

Hulk has always been a great, if somewhat inconsistent superhero. Sometimes he's a brute. Sometimes he's a genius, and most of the time he's somewhere in the middle of all of that. Now he's leading a team of other Hulk-like adventures, including perennial kidnap bait Rick Jones who is now a bro-tastic blue Hulk with invisibility powers.

It's pretty standard children's superhero fare, but it does offer some depth with She-Hulk. Jennifer Walters, who in this universe works as a Hollywood stuntwoman instead of a lawyer, mainly serves as the Hulk team's pilot, but still manages to come across more nuanced and baddass than a hold full of giant punchmasters. As always, she's the best part of whatever she's in.

Rating: 6 of 10

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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