DC has been absolutely killing it recently with the anthologies. Batman: Secret Files #1 was a near-perfect collection of short stories about the Dark Knight, and the Halloween-themed Cursed Comics Cavalcade was a wonderful throwback to EC Comics. With Nuclear Winter Special #1, the publisher keeps the good times rolling with 10 holiday-inspired post-apocalyptic stories. And much like its aforementioned predecessors, Nuclear Winter is filled with more hits than misses. Even those stories that may not stick landing are nevertheless compelling.
The first story in this anthology is also one of the best, focusing on the futuristic version of Damian Wayne from Batman #666, by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert. We’ve always been huge fans of this futuristic Batman, and while the stories set in that world not written by Morrison have been lackluster, “Warmth” by Collin Kelly, Jason Lansing and Cam Smith is surprisingly heartwarming. Strangely enough, the following story continues to prove that many of the characters Morrison created for DC still have legs. Featuring Kal Kent from DC One Million and All-Star Superman, “Memory Hearth,” by Steve Orlando, Brad Walker and Andrew Hennessy is a beautiful tale about legacy, family and destiny. It’s earnest and musters a level of weirdness that echoes the works of Morrison. That one-two punch of fantastic works are almost enough for the price of admission.
Some stories in this book introduce a fascinating vision, but don't have enough time to really grow. The Aquaman story "Where the Light Cannot Reach" by Mairghread Scott and Dexter Soy read like a better version of the Kevin Costner film Waterworld and had our attention right out the gate, but unfortunately, other than some great aesthetics and a solid hook, there wasn't much else to write home about. Here's hoping the creators make good on their promise of "not the end" in the final caption. If this was just the demo tape, we want to hear the LP. The same could be said for the Supergirl story by Tom Taylor, Tom Derenick and Yasmine Putri, "Last Daughters," which is absolutely beautiful, but again, leaves us wanting much, much more.
This comic is not without its weird entries. The stories surrounding Firestorm is rather off-kilter, but it is a good time. And of course the inclusion of Jack Kirby's iconic character Kamandi is a fun surprise, but boy is it silly ... in a good way. The only stories that fall a bit flat are the actual framing device, which feels a bit unnecessary, the Catwoman tale, which is good, but overstays its welcome just slightly, and the one starring the Flash, which seems like a bit of a retread of what anyone who is even remotely familiar with the character is privy to. Again, they're not bad, they're simply not quite top-tier.
But DC Nuclear Winter Special #1 saves the best for last with "The Birds of Christmas Past, Present and Future," by Dave Wielgosz and Scott Kolins. The story focuses on an older Oliver Queen and Dinah Drake meeting at a Christmas Party and reflecting on their storied history. It's stories like this that make us connect with superheroes more than anything else. When they are broken down and their vulnerabilities are on full display, we tend to fall in love with them all over again. For a story that has barely any action scenes, this might have been the most emotionally compelling entry in the entire anthology.
DC Nuclear Winter Special #1 is a must-buy for fans of the company's pantheon of heroes. There's something for everyone here, and the holiday theme is never too overbearing, nor too saccharine. Each story stands out on its own, even if a few are overshadowed by superior entries. Here's hoping DC continues this trend in its anthology releases, because pound for pound, they have been some of the best bang-for-your-buck comics on the shelves this year.