This is a thick comic. At 70-pages for $5.99, it’s not even a bad value, considering current comic book prices. And some top-notch artists show up to tell some Christmas stories, including Ivan Reis, Dustin Nguyen, Karl Kerschel, and Kevin Maguire.
But, overall, “DCU Holiday Special” #1 probably isn’t worth your time.
With ten complete short stories, plus a not-quite-framing sequence, there’s bound to be something you might enjoy here, but the comic certainly doesn’t start with its strongest foot forward. The first story is a retelling of the origin of the greatest hero on Earth. A man who was rocketed to our planet and raised by adoptive parents. A man with supernatural abilities who established a fortress in the icy hinterlands. A man who can fly. A man by the name of Santa Claus.
Yeah, retelling the Santa Claus origin story as a parody of the Superman origin is a pretty one-note joke, and though you may find it funnier than I did, that’s all there is to it. Ivan Reis provides some nice art (finished by Joe Prado), but it’s a ten-page groaner of a story to start the comic.
Then we get a terribly prosaic Aquaman story by Dan DiDio and Ian Churchill, followed by an absolutely gorgeous “Good King Wenceslas” tale by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen. Even Nguyen’s watercolor artwork can’t save the latter story, and the former is not worth even a minute of your time.
So it’s not until page 24 until we get a story worth reading: “A Day Without Sirens,” by Joe Kelly and Mick Bertilorenzi. The art is decent, but it’s Kelly’s writing that shines on this one, as he tells of a 24-hour period without crime in Gotham. The twist on the final page is a genuine surprise, and conveys that ephemeral “Christmas spirit” that all of these stories try so hard to achieve.
The rest of the comic is as inconsistent as the first third, with a decent Blue Beetle story followed by an overly pedantic Huntress tale teaching us not to make fun of people with disabilities. A Kevin Maguire-drawn Shaggy Man meets the JLA story is a lot of fun, but it’s only a few pages amidst a mass of mediocrity.
The comic ends with a story justifying the existence of the Japanese version of Dr. Light, if that’s what you’re looking for in a Christmas special.
Clearly this is a comic that’s meant to celebrate the DCU and celebrate the holiday season, so I can’t help but feel a bit Grinchy for being negative about it. But just because the comic is a kind of Christmas present for readers, that doesn’t mean it’s a particularly good one. Sometimes you open up that beautifully wrapped present and find an ugly green and brown sweater inside. Maybe you’ll wear it once, just to be polite, but you certainly won’t even bother to look at it again.
That’s what this is, except less comfortable.