By Leroy Douresseaux
July 22, 2007 - 15:14
|An early version of the book cover.
Some readers well-remember Stephen King’s 1983 illustrated novel, Cycle of the Werewolf, in which Berni Wrightson provided the illustrations. It was basically a short novel, and King seemed to emphasize plot and setting over character (perhaps for space consideration). Wrightson’s drawings enhanced the mood and atmosphere and provided the visual spark for the reader’s imagination. As a teen, Rich Koslowski read a trade paperback version of Cycle of the Werewolf, and now the acclaimed comic book creator is using a format similar to the King/Wrightson book for his own illustrated novel, The List.
The List introduces us to a world where Santa Claus is still an immortal, but he is a magical being who also embraces new science and technology. The story takes place in two distinct times – the late 1960’s when the conspiracy against St. Nick begins and the present day when the jolly old elf fights back. For ages, men from the outside world have gone to the North Pole to ask Santa to join them in various business ventures. What they want most of all is “The List” – that tome that has the name of every boy and girl and who is good or bad. Finally, in 1968, one of the companies, The Halcyon Corporation, Inc., stopped asking and launched “Operation Snowstorm.” They conquered the North Pole and buried Santa deep in the desert of American Southwest.
Four decades later, Halcyon rules Christmas, which it has turned into a pay-to-play deal, and the company is only getting greedier. Realizing the awful wrong they set upon the world, a small group of Halcyon employees rescue Santa. They join a large number of Santa’s elves who have remained in hiding, hoping for their master’s return. There is also a tiny group of agents who have stayed close to Santa’s castle at the North Pole. With the Big Man back, they launch total war against Halcyon, but they’re about to discover that a dark and mysterious figure from Santa’s past is the architect of this evil. He may be to powerful to defeat.
THE LOWDOWN: With The List, Rich Koslowski asks, “What if Santa Claus were real?” From there, he uses much of the early sections of the novel to assail greed and the ever-increasing commercialization of Christmas, as well as the trivialization of the holiday’s deeper or more spiritual (and less self-centered) meaning. The rest is a rousing, edge-of-your-seat adventure thriller. Sometimes, the use of language or the way Koslowski uses descriptive words and phrases seem a bit awkward, as if he were writing an old pulp novel, but that’s only an occasional blip.
The List is the potboiler novel as summer Hollywood blockbuster, and Koslowski simply makes the thing work. It’s hard to put down, and the fast-paced narrative demands that you finish it now rather than later. Rich also provides several beautiful illustrations for this narrative that helps to establish the mood and setting (and harks back to Cycle of the Werewolf).
FOR READERS OF: The List is an action fantasy novel, and in that it does resemble big Hollywood event movies that mix action and magical fantasy, such as Sleepy Hollow or The Brothers Grimm. Readers who liked the Disney film series, The Santa Clause, will find The List does take a similar approach to the idea of Santa Claus as real, particularly the third film, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause.
The List can be purchased at the author's website, or ordered through your local comic shop via Diamond Distributors. The Comic Shop Locator Service phone number is 1-888-COMIC BOOK.