I would have preferred reading the completed story of Mother Christmas Volume 1: The Muse, but this first volume is strong, if not open-ended and left me with a few questions. Valya Dudycz Lupescu had a curious mind as a child and that took them into adulthood where they followed mythology, legends, folk and fairy tales to their “why.” AS St. Nicholas and Santa Claus played a role in their lives (St. Nicholas was from their Ukraine heritage and Santa from their American side) they had questions and researched what they could. Through this, Mother Christmas was born. (And I did not just know this, it comes from the author’s introduction).
We follow several characters as we watch the old religious beliefs being encroached upon by Christianity. A family of mortals, the mother, father, and sister of a man who will be called St. Nicholas is our main focus. We follow the sister from birth on. She represents the old ways of worshiping the goddesses. The father, when Nicholas is born, will not let “any son of his” be raised as anything but Christian. This duality plays out throughout the years of their lives, but at the same time these siblings almost could not be closer. The Muse of the story is an actual young Muse (Amara, one of the Muses of the House of Polyhymnia) who is sent to watch over and inspire the girl, along with a Guardian that all humans are given at birth.
Sometimes this plethora of story arcs, characters, and ideas all plop down too quickly and it is a lot to take in. Slowly savor both text and illustrations (more on that later), take notes (names were the hardest for me, not so much because they were unusual, though some are, but because there were so many). Two of the strongest themes are feminism and religion. I am hoping that the book will not lose the feminist aspect, but I do not want it to become too militant. Which is one reason why I would have liked the whole series at once, I want to know how that plays out. And though things are serious, there is some humor as well, but it is not the focus. As well, there are several overtones of same-gender/sex love affairs, so much is happening all once.
And now to the lovely illustrations of Victoria Terra. They are colorful, silky, and the details are almost too busy. Things are very “graphic novel comic look” to them. They bring to life the people, places, and because of some pieces, the hidden elements are as important as what is in front of you. And regardless of any potential flaws, they are probably my favorite part of this graphic novel. Thankfully, as there is violence and several deaths occur, things are tastefully done. They are both dark, light, sensual, even at times rigid, all at once. They tell part of the story that the text cannot.