You know when Christmas is here; the Coke truck advert is on the TV, decorations go up straight after Halloween, there is a Star Wars movie out a the cinema and of course, there is sappy saccharin fueled stories in place of “the regular programming”. Now, before you all think I am some sort of Grinch (decorations only go up in December by the way), I actually like Christmas and I sometimes like the sideways turn things can take. But they have to be done well.
This “Special” features a raft of characters in varying degrees of success. First off the bat is Clark who despite all his good work has a touch of the holiday blues, and needs the loving hamming-up of Bibbo. It’s the sort of story that Jeff Lemire can write in his sleep. Here, along with Guiseppe Camuncoli on pencils and Cam Smith on inks, it’s the type of story you’d expect to find as a Christmas tale.
“Twas the Night Before Christmas” features Batman, a death and revenge written by bat veteran Denny O’Neil and drawn by Steve Epting. If anyone can get back on track its Batman right? Well, almost. After a solid setup and an odd car journey, the story seems to build to what you assume will be a staggering conclusion. Instead, like a Christmas cracker that promises so much, one snap and all you are left with is a trinket and a bad joke. Epting’s art is good throughout although there is an odd panel where Batman’s eye looks out-of-place on the cowl. Still the “Santa down the chimney” piece more than makes up for this perspective discrepancy.
And so the book meanders, through more sappy-ness with the Flashes delivering the best presents of all; Phil Hester tries to out do Kelly Jones with another awful version of Black Canary, though the boxing glove arrow did make me smile; Tom Grummet draws back the years to deliver a good-looking Deathstroke story even if Santa is to be terminated. A couple of teams show up later in the book, The Atomic Knights and the Teen Titans. There is even an appearance by Swamp Thing to whet your eclectic whistle. I have said in the past that DC relies on Batman too much. This book kind of proves my point as he is in a second story, written by Greg Rucka, that also features Wonder Woman. I am not sure why the powers that be don’t think that Diana should feature in her own story, being as she is hugely popular right now. I mean, no solo Wonder Woman story but an Atomic Knights one? Really? Really?? Whilst I am not a big fan of the insinuation from DC that Diana can only work in a story with a male counter-part, Rucka’s tale is a cleverly plotted we achieve the same by different methods piece that allows the contrast between these two characters to create their own level of intimacy.
I have saved the best till last. “Going Down Easy!” is a Sgt. Rock story. The story focuses on the stalemate between a wounded member of Easy Company and a German officer. Who is the prisoner of whom is open for debate as each night bring their fateful, and possibly hateful relationship to an end. But is this an end that claim either or both of them. Tom King again shows a level of writing that excels the majority of his work on the Batman book. I wish he could bring this sort punch to the main Bat book on a regular basis. The art is by Francesco Francavilla and as you would expect is bang on perfect throughout. Looking at this winter wonderland, I swear I had a shiver and felt the temperature in my house drop a couple of degrees. The book is wrapped up in a pretty bow, though I am not sure why Superman is in costume with his guest and why does Lois look like a hooker?
One year, back when I was eight or so, I wrote a Star Wars Christmas story, in which Princess Leia decided to send Darth Vader a tin of polish for Christmas. It’s the sort of nonsense Christmas story that only makes sense when you are a certain age, at the most wonderful time of the year. For a lot or reasons, this books reminds me of that story. The kid in me smiled at parts of this book, where the adult I am now would balk at the cover price. Still, the book has enough about it, with stellar creators providing stories that will appeal across the age ranges. Just a thought DC, next year, to make it truly special, why not make this a charity book, with the sales going to a national charity of choice. That way, people may not mind dropping the $9.99 on Christmas whimsy.
(W) Greg Rucka, Tom King, Dennis O’Neil, Jeff Lemire, Max Landis, Christopher Priest, Shea Fontana, Joshua Williamson
(A) Steve Epting, Rafael Albuquerque, Bilquis Evely, Otto Schimdt, Neil Googe, Francis Manapul
(CA) Andy Kubert