REVIEW: Grimm Universe Presents Quarterly: Holiday Special 2021

Still have the holiday spirit? Jump into Grimm Universe Presents Quarterly: 2021 Holiday Special, an irreverent horror romp presented by Krampus himself. This anthology features three mean-spirited stories and an epilogue full of demons, monsters, magic, and holiday trips straight to Hell.

Grimm Universe Presents Quarterly: 2021 Holiday Special

Eduardo Garcia, Juan Francisco Mota, Ricardo Osnaya, and Dario Carrasco (Artists), Jenna Lyn Wright (Writer), Igor Vitorino and Grostieta (Cover Artists), Kurt Hathaway (Letters), and Maxflan Araujo (Colors)
December 8, 2021

A demonic red figure, a woman with black hair and fangs, an airplane, and a black car are set against a dark sky.

Kicking this anthology off with a cheeky tone, Krampus presents three loosely connected stories, posing as a rideshare driver in Las Vegas during the hectic holiday season. Santa’s devious counterpart (complete with a Krampus toy dangling from the rearview mirror) uses his position as an unassuming gig worker to find unsavory characters for his naughty list. Writer Jenna Lynn Wright uses themes of Christmas and travel as the common threads across the different stories, making for an interesting storytelling device even if it doesn’t quite tie everything together in the end. Colorwork by Maxflan Araujo also helps to visually unify the anthology, bringing subtly different moods and tones to each story while still maintaining a consistent palette and use of lighting effects and texture.

The first story is helmed by artist Eduardo Garcia and follows a selfish businessman whose casual cruelty lands him on a cursed flight. Here, unsuspecting holiday travelers are picked off one by one as demonic flight attendants feed passengers to a bat-like monster in the belly of the plane. Garcia’s exaggerated characters and goofy use of gore highlight the absurdity of the set-up. The visuals lean into the inherent silliness with highly expressive characters, flying eyeballs, and a monster that would feel right at home in a Scooby-Doo direct-to-VHS movie.

Next, artist Juan Francisco Mota gives us the tale of a corrupt airport director who mistreats his staff. The director runs a scam taking expensive jewelry and clothes from misplaced or unclaimed luggage, lining his pockets with stolen goods. When he steals the gold cross from the lid of an ominous coffin, he unleashes the bat monster seen in the previous story, who stalks the airport turning people into blood-thirsty ghouls. Mota’s thick lines and rounded shapes give his characters a very soft, stylized quality that lends well to the gorier elements. The blood is goopy and gelatinous, and the shredded bodies are thick and fleshy, making the horror feel uniquely visceral in its execution. It all comes together for highly satisfying kills as the monster runs loose.

Artist Ricardo Osnaya provides the final full story in the anthology. This tale follows an aspiring magician who makes a deal with a demon, summoning the creature to close out an audition after failing to impress a casino owner. When the demon offers the magician fame in exchange for a sacrifice, he eagerly gives up his girlfriend (and assistant) for the promise of becoming the most famous magic act of all time. Osnaya’s story is my favorite of the three due to its dynamic use of perspective and wide-eyed, highly expressive characters. He brings visual interest by mimicking the inherent showmanship of a magic performance, with over-the-top character action and dramatic flourishes throughout. An epilogue from artist Dario Carrasco closes the anthology, bringing Krampus back to confront the demon for meddling with the magician’s planned comeuppance.

Since I had a good time with Zenescope’s Grimm Tales Quarterly Presents: 2021 Halloween Special, I was curious about the publisher’s final holiday event comic. Overall, Grimm Universe Presents Quarterly: 2021 Holiday Special is a fun way to ring in the holiday season. The visual storytelling is solid from start to finish, and the entries are just nasty enough for some mean-spirited fun that’s right in line with Krampus’ brand of moral retribution. Wright finds a good balance between the darkly comedic tone throughout the stories and the schlocky horror of demons and man-bats, providing characters you’ll be happy to hate.

My only criticism would be the thematic connections between the three stories and epilogue. There’s nothing explicitly holiday-themed about the stories besides the use of travel and sparse Christmas decorations peppered throughout some of the backgrounds. Part of that is the setting of Las Vegas and its desert climate, which doesn’t allow for much in the way of a wintery atmosphere. I found the idea of an Uber driver Krampus to be a clever way to introduce the characters, but I wish there was more time spent developing these ideas. A tacky Sin City Christmas full of out-of-place holiday décor and awful people getting their due is an entertaining concept, and I just don’t think the anthology allows itself to fully explore that idea. If anything, this anthology feels too restrained, which is saying a lot for a Zenescope title.

Even with a few stumbles along the way, Grimm Universe Presents Quarterly: 2021 Holiday Special is an enjoyable horror anthology that delivers on the promise of schlocky kills and irreverent monster violence. Zenescope readers will find it worth picking up, and overall, I’d say it’s a fun comic for anyone looking for a goofier addition to their holiday reading list.

Magen Cubed

Magen Cubed

Magen Cubed is a novelist, occasional critic, and general internet menace. Frequently seen hollering about monsters on Twitter.

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