Jingle Belle: Santa Claus Vs. Frankenstein

This tale waffles somewhere between wanting to grow up and wanting to be a snappy read for younger readers. Behind the concept of Santa Claus being an outdated, borderline negative influence, a politician drives a campaign to rid the holiday season of one of its most recognizable icons.

Dini does an admirable job of making this book approachable to all readers, limiting the story and action to a handful of explicitly distinct individuals. The situations he puts those characters in, coupled with the resolutions to those situations, runs heavily on the side of cliche. That's not to say it reads to a more elementary scale; it doesn't. Sometimes, however, comics need to be formulaic and predictable.

Gladden is a suitable choice for the art to this tale. A veteran of nearly every cartoon-related comic, she brings a Chuck Jones/Tex Avery quality of line and character made static through the magic of paper. The straightforward story calls for straightforward storytelling and Gladden delivers with wonderful scenes interspersed to showcase her abilities (look for the narwhals and you've found what I'm talking about).

The covers could not be in more divergent directions. The one from Gladden is a simple comic conflict cliche cover, elegant in its simplicity and straightforward in its message. The cover from Greg Horn, however, is sure to garner an extra glance or two as Horn's covers always do. That cover adds credence to my supposition that Dini is seeking an audience more specific than all ages with this tale.

The story has some charm and wit to it, but nothing that is going to remain in my consciousness beyond this coming weekend. Consider it akin to an Archie comic with some more winks and nods. I can easily see this book finding its way into the hands of unsuspecting readers. Some will revel in the story while others will be disappointed that they spent three bucks for this. Personally, I found it to be a nice comic break, giving me a respite from the standard fare.

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