Dad, Mom, Petey, and Jean are just your ordinary duck-headed family…except for their monster, Kriss! Petey and Jean are excited when their parents tell them they’ll be going on vacation for Christmas, even though they’re sad to miss having a Christmas tree, but then they discover Kriss isn’t invited along. Luckily, Kriss follows them anyways and they’ll soon need his help when they get swept off the road in an avalanche and have to save Santa Claus from the scary monster that ate all his reindeer.
The artwork features small groupings of art set against a blue background with a few sentences in lighter blue boxes as captions for the pictures. The borderless panels vary between a mixture of large horizontal panels and smaller squares, six to a page. Some of the panels are humorous, contrasting the art and text. For example, after their car has gone off the road, the art shows Dad standing on the car, buried in snow, while the text reads “Mom proposes going down to the nearest village.” The next picture shows that the family is on the edge of a cliff and the caption states, “Dad proposes going up to the nearest village.”
There is a kind of childlike logic to the series of weird events and the family calmly, with some exasperation on the part of the parents, accepts the existence of monsters, appearance of Santa Claus, and their trek up and down the snowy cliff. Although there is some humor in the story, eventually the odd expressions of the characters, who spend many of the panels staring blankly with their heads at an odd angle, and the flat narration, “Mom gets closer to complain to the man who fell./But she stops real quick when she sees it’s Santa Claus./We quickly go to help him” leaches the humor out of the story. The characters have odd proportions, especially the monsters. The monsters make sense, since a note at the beginning of the story tells us that Kriss at least was created from a child’s drawing. After a while, the eyes of the characters, which are empty white circles, got very creepy.
I have trouble seeing a wide audience for this graphic novel. Stories involving Santa Claus are of limited interest to older kids, but the extremely dry, tongue-in-cheek humor is going to pass by most young children. This would work best, I think, as a read-aloud to a young child who will enjoy the kooky monsters and Santa Claus, while the adult can snicker at the subtle humor. If you have fans of Trondheim’s Tiny Tyrant series, it might be worth adding this odd adventure, but otherwise kids are going to be more interested in stories that are more clearly set in reality or fantasy, not a mixture of both. Available only in hardcover, but it’s Papercutz so their hardcovers are very affordable.
Monster Christmas, vol. 1
by Lewis Trondheim