Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Writer: Nick Santora
Artwork: Lee Ferguson
Colours: Pippa Bowland, Juancho!
Lettering: Simon Bowland
Release Date: 27th April 2022
On sale today from AfterShock, Naughty List tells the somewhat complicated life story of Nicholas Sinterklass, a young man who, upon witnessing the plague-ravaged children of his village’s reaction to a simple act of kindness, makes what turns out to be a rather foolish wish upon a star. All he wanted to do was help the children and spread a little joy, but as he soon discovers, even the most noble wishes can come with strings attached.
While alternative Santa Claus origin stories aren’t exactly unheard of, series writer Nick Santora does a good job of letting us get to know Nicholas as his life gradually spirals downhill, waking each day with a irresistible desire to make toys for children despite how he may have been feeling the night before. It gets worse, as Nick’s inability to age sees him outliving both his wife and daughter, shunned from society and forced to live in the woods as an outcast.
Things rapidly get darker and more and profanity laden as we follow Nick’s journey through the decades, with his growing frustration and despair even leading him to take his own life on several occasions, only to awaken the next morning well and truly alive (and once again desperate to make some toys). It’s a tragic tale, and one which only gets more intriguing as we follow Nick’s life to the modern day and discover that somebody has stolen his “naughty or nice” list and is using it to start killing off the naughty ones.
I’m on board with the idea for sure, although the pacing of this first issue felt a little slow for my personal tastes. Sure, Santora does a good job of establishing Nicholas, his life and his unusual set of circumstances, but I’m not sure we needed a full issue to get to this point when the gist could potentially be delivered in half that time, giving the issue a little more space to dig into the real meat of its premise.
Lee Ferguson does a solid job with the artwork, adding some visual flourishes to Nicholas’ origin story with some inventive page layouts along the way. I particularly enjoyed the clock face montage where ‘Saint Nick’ discovers his obsessive love for whittling and toy making. Pippa Bowland and Juancho! provide the colours here, utilising a fairly subdued palette for the most part but still doing enough to keep the aforementioned flourishes looking sharp, and providing some much needed depth throughout.
Was I blown away by this first issue? Perhaps not, but there was definitely enough of an interesting hook that I’m seriously considering picking up the second issue when it goes on sale to see how Nicholas’ story develops. A solid enough opening chapter then, albeit one which treads a lot of familiar ground and takes quite a long time to get to where it’s going. But hey, who doesn’t love a foul-mouthed and surprisingly dark Santa Claus retcon at the end of April? Definitely worth a look.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]