Saturday, December 14, 2019

Martian Manhunter Holiday Special '09


DC Universe Holiday Special '09 (Martian Manhunter)
"Reason for the Season"
Writer - Fred Van Lente
Art/Colors - Nick Dragotta
Letters - Travis Lanham
Editors - Adam Schlagman & Eddie Berganza

Been a long time since we covered the Manhunter from Mars... let's see how J'onn rings in the Holidays!

--



It's the night of the Precinct Christmas Party... but that, unfortunately, doesn't stop crimes from occurring.  We open at Evergreen Alley, a Christmas Tree Lot, whose owner, Tony Valdez was just shot to death.  John Jones enters the scene to ask some questions of his partner, Diane Meade.  He asks about the cash box... and learns that, naturally, it was stolen.  He asks about witnesses... and, there was none.  Only other fella around was his helper, a kid named Kenny... who, at the time of the murder was off getting coffees.



John breaks away from the rest of the officers, and walks over seemingly to comfort Kenny.  Instead he immediately asks him about the whereabouts of that cash box.  Kenny, knowing the gig is up... hoofs it!



J'onn gives chase, but does so by taking a short-cut through a nearby house... it's all decked out for Christmas, which facilitates a really overblown soliloquy from our Manhunter regarding Mars.  A little too overblown for my tastes... but, whattayagonnado?



Out the other end, J'onn finds himself stood right before Kenny's car... which plows right into him.  The kid goes flying, and we're going to assume he was arrested.



We wrap up at the Precinct Christmas Party, where John surprises his partner with a half-gallon of eggnog... and tries Double-Stuffed Chocos for the very first time.



--

This wasn't bad... but felt more like a story-sandwich, than an actual story.  I mean, it feels like Van Lente really wanted to wax poetic about alienation and Mars... and the "plot" came secondary only to service that notion.  It was neat seeing J'onn as kind of an outsider among his fellow officers, but it didn't take long for it to become a little too precious.

Really enjoyed the art here, which kind of took me by surprise.  When I think of Nick Dragotta, the first thing that comes to mind is his time as artist on FF... which, I hated.  It was the kind of art that managed to pull me out of the story... but here, it works... and it works really well!

Tomorrow: Wouldja believe... Angel and the Ape?!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Superboy Holiday Special '09


DC Universe Holiday Special '09 (Superboy)
"Party Gift"
Writer - Ralph Soll
Pencils - Rodney Buchemi
Inks - Greg Adams
Colors - Pete Pantazis
Letters - Jared K. Fletcher
Editors - Adam Schlagman & Eddie Berganza

Who's ready for a Superboy story... that doesn't feature Superboy?!

--



We open... somewhere.  I thought for a moment it was Arkham Asylum, but it actually just looks like a Holiday Gathering of many of DC's villains.  Shockingly, there's no Joker appearance!  They seem to shoe-horn him into anything, so his absence here is quite weird!  Anyhoo, baddies are singing carols, sipping eggnog, and kissing under the mistletoe... while the Penguin is congratulated on putting together such a great shindig.  Ozzie comes clean, stating that he had nothing to do with it!  He's just a guest here like everyone else.



Like a game of telephone, the villains go down the line trying to deduce who their party host is... and none of 'em are coppin' to it!  The baddies start to freak out a bit, realizing they very well might've just stepped into a trap!



But alas, it's not.  Finally the party-planner pops in... and it's Match!  You know Match, right?  Would it be easier if we just called him Bizarro-Superboy?  Probably... but, he's "Match".  Anyhoo... Match shows up, and reveals that he put this party together to try and instill in his fellow villains that they can learn to live better lives... and, with the new year comes new opportunities to turn over a new leaf.  I... I'm not sure if this is backwards Bizarro-speak... and from the looks of it, none of the other villains have a clue either!



--

Well, this was something... I'm not sure quite what, but... it was definitely "something".

Gotta admit, it's been a long time since I read a story with "Match" in it.  Can't remember exactly what his gimmick was.  Did he do the backwards Bizarro-speak?  If so, I mean... he just told the villains to keep villaining here, right?  I dunno.  Seems like a weird non-story to include in this package.  At least if this story included the Joker (as tired as I am of stories written simply so we can say, "hey look, it's the Joker!"), I could rationalize it being here.  This though... was just weird and pointless.

Least it looked nice!

Tomorrow: N'oel N'oel, the Martians did sing!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Doom Patrol Holiday Special '09


DC Universe Holiday Special '09 (Doom Patrol)
"The (Beast) Boy Who Hated Christmas!"
Writer - Sterling Gates
Art - Jonboy Meyers
Colors - Chuck Pires
Letters - Travis Lanham
Editors - Adam Schlagman & Eddie Berganza

Something really cool about this Holiday Special is the fact that we're not only going to be getting stories from the "Magnificent Seven" or the strictly A-List characters... we're going to get some real weirdos moving forward (heck, we're gonna be talking B'wana friggin' Beast in a few days!).  It's been a while since I've written about the Doom Patrol, so today's is gonna be fun!

Let's get right to it!

--



We open way back in the long ago, with the Doom Patrol victorious in battle over... I wanna say the Brain.  It's a giant robot, with what appears to be a brain exposed on top.  Might just be some artistic license... might be another baddie altogether.  It's not really important here.  What's important at this juncture is... it's Christmas Eve!  And Beast Boy really isn't the biggest fan of the Holiday Season.  The narration only backs that up.  The Doomies ask Gar why he's so down... and he's pretty evasive.  He basically tells his teammates to "stick it" before morphing into a bird to return home to his caretaker.



Rita decides to follow and try and get to the bottom of what's the matter with Gar... and so, she tracks him back to the motel where his guardian, Mr. Galtry is holed up.  Upon return, Gar is immediately scolded and put to work.  Rita is beside herself... and reports her findings to her husband, Steve "Mento" Dayton.



She then makes a suggestion... a plea, even.  Considering that Gar is only fourteen, that means he'll be stuck with this jerk guardian for another four years.  Rita beats around the bush a bit rather than flat-out asking the question rattling around in her head.  Steve, however, smells what she's cookin'... and shoots her down.



We shift ahead a little while, and rejoin Beast Boy as he's reading a Christmas story.  He's interrupted by his Doom Patrol communications device calling him into action!  He rushes out, only to find, not an emergency, but Steve and Rita... and they really want to talk.



Rita reveals that she, like Logan, hated Christmas.  Being a strictly career-minded individual as an actress, she never had any use for the Holidays.  She never prioritized family, and was actually annoyed by those who did.  Now, though... things are different.  She has a husband in Steve, a support system in the Doom Patrol... in fact, there's only one thing that's missing.  And, considering that that is unable to have children... that one thing is likely to remain elusive.  That is, of course, unless Gar allows she and Steve to legally adopt him as their Son.



Well, that's all our Beast Boy needed to hear... he is 100% on board with this idea!  We wrap up with the revelation that the anti-Christmas narration we've been reading was not coming from Beast Boy... but Rita all along.



--

Another great little story!

Being a sucker for "lore", I appreciate any time where established continuity can be used in service of another story.  Rita and Steve adopting Gar is an important (and oft-cited) part of that early Doom Patrol run... and, I'll admit it's been awhile since I last read that stuff... so, I don't remember exactly how this went down back in the long ago.

But, that doesn't really matter here!  This is just a neat little heartwarming Christmas story.  I really dug the little switcheroo we got with the narration.  It was easy to assume that the anti-Christmas sentiment was coming from the (Beast) Boy Who Hated Christmas... so, it was neat and clever when we found out it was actually Rita!

Gotta mention the art... it's pretty spectacular.  I first (knowingly) encountered Jonboy Meyers during his time on Spawn... and, he's the kinda talent where, when you see his work, you know you're looking at something special.  I was so psyched when he was tapped to provide art for the Rebirth era Teen Titans... and was super-bummed when it all fell through!  Excellent stuff... beautiful characters!

I was going to save this reveal for the end of our DC Universe Holiday Special '09 discussion... however, since that will wrap up on Christmas Day, it's going to be too late.  As of this writing, you can head over to DC Digital and grab this entire issue... for FREE!



Give it a click... and add these stories to your Holiday Reading Rotation!  Tell 'em Chris is on Infinite Earths sentcha... if they ask, which they won't!

Tomorrow: Kon-El crashes the Party!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Flash Holiday Special '09


DC Universe Holiday Special '09 (Flash)
"Flash Before Christmas"
Writer - Amy Wolfram
Art - Daniel Leister
Colors - Nei Ruffino
Letters - Travis Lanham
Editors - Adam Schlagman & Eddie Berganza

Before we hop into today's story, I just wanted to briefly follow-up on yesterday's pre-ramble, just in case anyone's interested.  The Pug's surgery was a complete success... and although he had to lose 21 (!) teeth to fully take care of the abscess, he is back home... and running around on his wobbly legs like a pup half his age!  So, yeah... finally managed to get a few hours sleep last night!

--



We open as Linda is sending little Jai and Iris off to school.  Wally sidles up hoping for some alone time, and winds up with the most festive Honey-do list a fella might wanna get.  He's gotta do a whole bunch'a stuff before that evening's Christmas Pageant at the school... and, guess what?  He's gonna take us along for the ride!  First stop: The Post Office?  Why in the world would the Flash ever need to mail anything?  Well, one look at the line, Wally has that exact same thought!



While in Gorilla City dropping off that package, Wally gets a call from his mother about setting up her Christmas Tree.  And so, our man heads to the nearest Christmas Tree Lot... only to learn that he's waited too long, the only trees left are tinder!  Off to the woods, where Wally chops the nicest tree ya ever did see.  He sets it up for his mother... however, before he can string the outside lights, he gets a call from the Justice League about a fight with Killer Croc.  This is that weird pre-Flashpoint JLA, with Donna Troy and the Dick Grayson Batman, by the way.



They take care of Croc, and get to catching up.  Dick asks Wally what he's getting Linda... to which he replies: Nothing!  They agreed not to exchange.  Dick suggests he think twice about that.  Donna then chime in by giving the Flash his JLA "Secret Santa"... and it's Raven.



Off to the Mall of America, so Wally can pick up a Blue Rocket Ranger action figure for Jai.  Dude behind the counter informs him that those things are selling out right as they hit the shelves!  And so, Wally just runs to the factory in China to buy one fresh off the line.



He spends the rest of the afternoon finishing up the rest of the Honey-do list.  We wrap up on Christmas Morning, where Wally gives Linda a brand-new... spellbook?!  Well, that's a mistake.  Quick as a Flash, Wally corrects his error... swapping the spellbook that was intended for Raven with the lingerie meant for Linda.  Whoops.  Jai opens his toy, and Iris proclaims this to be the Best Christmas Ever.



--

Now, I had a wonderful time with this one!  It was a lot of fun.

Before we talk any about the story, I just want to credit our creative team for their fantastic use of space here!  I feel like we here at the Infinite Earths have become de-facto experts on "short stories" over the last little while, and I gotta say... this simple four-page piece, might be the most perfect use of "paginal real estate" that I've seen yet!  The only downside to that (as a blogger) is, I feel like I want to include pictures of every single panel, as there is something relevant to the synopsis is all of 'em!  What I'm trying to say is: Well Done!

Now, the story.  It was a heckuva lot of fun!  If you're a long-time reader of the site, you know Wally's my Flash... and any opportunity to chat him up, is one that I'll take!  Again, if you're a long-time reader of the site, you'll know: I wasn't the biggest fan of the twins!  Well, in general, I'm still kinda not... but, this was a Christmas story, so I'm down with it!  Just like in real-life, Christmas only gets better with the addition of little ones (or so I've heard), this story too was enhanced by their inclusion.

This, taking place at the tail-end of what we know as the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe, makes it a bit of a bittersweet read.  Naturally, that's not specific to this story in particular... but, it served as a retroactive reminder of everything we'd lost during the Summer of 2011.  Looking at Wally and Linda... seeing the "graduates" era of the Justice League... for the first time in a long time, it felt as though the DC Universe was, I dunno "maturing".  Maturing in the real sense, not the current Black Label "curse words and private parts" sense.  It makes me sad every time I revisit this era... because it's a reminder of that cosmic toilet flush that was looming on the horizon.

Well, I certainly let this review portion get away from me, didn't I?

Ahem... anyhoo.  This story was a blast, and if you're looking at adding any short-subjects to your regular Holiday comics reading routine... I'd highly recommend this one!

Tomorrow: I'll have a DOOMED Christmas without you...

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Superman Holiday Special '09


DC Universe Holiday Special '09 (Superman)
"Man of Snow"
Writer - Arie Kaplan
Pencils - Nick Runge
Inks - Gabe Eltaeb
Colors - Ulises Arreola
Letters - Travis Lanham
Editors - Adam Schlagman & Eddie Berganza

Hey gang... I come to you today, kind of in an odd state.  As I sit here typing, I'm about an hour away from driving our eldest Pup up to the vet for some surgery.  I've had a few sleepless nights in the lead-up.

A few weeks back, he began drooling.  He's getting older (just turned 12), and has lost a couple of teeth over the years... I just assumed that he had reached the "drooling stage", ya know?  It wasn't like a constant flow or anything... just every now and again, I'd have to wipe his chin.

Then... right around Thanksgiving, the smell kicked in.  It was a horrid, acrid... almost sweet smell.  We couldn't find the source of it... and, honestly, assumed we'd find some spoiled fruit under a piece of furniture or something.  It quickly became clear that it was coming from our boy.

It had been a little while since his last bath... so, we popped him in the tub, and gave him a scrub.  The smell went away, and we just figured he'd just gotten more stinky than usual (the things we tell ourselves when we worry, right?)

The smell was gone... for a day or two.  It came back, with a vengeance.  It was clear that it was coming from his mouth... the rest of his body was still lavender-fresh.  I tried getting into his mouth to see if I could see anything weird, but he wouldn't let me anywhere near it.  That's when I knew it was time to call the Vet.

Unfortunately, our vet... the Vet we've seen for the past 12 years, was all booked up... and we had to wait a few days (and over a weekend) to get him in.  The Doc didn't seem terribly worried from my description... which put me a bit at ease.  Least I was able to function.

His appointment was yesterday morning... and it took all of 3 minutes for the Vet to deduce that our Pup has a bad abscess... and would require some oral surgery (and likely lose a few more teeth) in order to get some relief.  So, I gotta drop him off for surgery in... well, about 45 minutes.

I'm sure this is all routine, and I have all the faith in the world in our Vet... but, ya know... it's still pretty scary.  It's gonna be a long day, my friends.

But that's not the sorta stuff you're here to read... no, no, no... you wanna see a short Holiday-themed story featuring Superman!  It's actually our second Hanukkah story this week!

--



We open with Superman passing over Park Ridge on his way to Smallville in order to drop off a pair of great big tubs of caramel corn for Ma.  It's a Christmas-time tradition at the Kent Farm, and Clark would like to make sure it continues even in this post-Pa world.  As he makes his approach, however, he is positively pummeled by a snowman!  Heck, it even cost Superman one of his popcorn tubs!



He lands, and the fight carries on in front of a house with a Menorah in its window.  A young fella named Yosef and his grandfather rush outside to see what all the hub-bub's about... and it turns out that the youngster isn't exactly surprised to see what's going down!  He taps the snowmonster on its head, seemingly "deactivating" it.



The small family invites Superman inside to tell him a story.  Ya see, Yosef has himself some spectacular powers... he can create things out of clay, and make them come to life.  He then turned his attention toward creating a Golem from Jewish folklore... however, rather than forging it from clay... he thought snow might be a bit more "festive" for the season.  Through a series of miscommunications, the Snow-Golem believes that it had been instructed by its master to "Get Sooperman"... and so, he did!



We wrap up with young Yosef learning a valuable lesson... and making a single request to the Man of Steel.  Here's the thing, Yosef's got Cystic Fibrosis... and is cooped up at home a lot.  Since this is the first night of Hanukkah... he's hoping to maybe get some "air".  Superman is more than happy to oblige, so long as the kiddo helps him find a replacement tin of caramel corn.



--

Well, this was a neat little uplifting tale, wasn't it?

Really not a whole heckuva lot to actually say about it... but, I did enjoy it for what it was!  We got quite a bit of backstory on young Yosef over the course of these four-pages... gotta wonder if he might've been based on somebody?

Tomorrow: Christmas with Jai and Iris

Monday, December 9, 2019

Batman Holiday Special '09


DC Universe Holiday Special '09 (Batman)
"Silent Knight"
Writer - Jay Faerber
Art/Colors - Peter Nguyen
Letters - Rob Clark, Jr.
Editors - Adam Schlagman & Eddie Berganza

Welcome to DC Comics' 2009 celebration of the Holiday Season... which, via the sheer amount of short-stories included in this ish, will bring us right on up to Christmas Day!  No joke, there are actually sixteen stories in this book!  Some shorter than others, but, Christmas Completionists that we are, we'll get to 'em all!

Let's start our journey with... oh, c'mon.  Yer kiddin' me, right?  Another Silent Batman Christmas story?!  How many of these do we need in our lives?

--



We open with Batman in hot-pursuit of a Santa Claus who had just robbed a truck of a bag of loot.  The baddie fires a few shots at the Bat before slipping away into an old warehouse.  An old warehouse... full of Santa Clauses?!  Well, isn't this just the most festive little crime ring we ever did see?



Batman camps out above for a bit planning his next move... before, somehow getting inside the joint.  I don't see any broken glass, or open doors.  Actually, all I can see is the painstaking level of detail Peter Nguyen put into Batman's boot laces!  I mean, check this out:



Anyhoo, Batman lands amid the Santas... and proceeds to beat all that's holy outta one of 'em.  Thankfully, the right one!



Just then, another one of the Santas puts his hand on Batman's shoulder... it's here that we learn that the rest of 'em are good guys.  They give our hero some cocoa and cookies... and share a Christmas snack.



--

I'll give it one thing... at least this wasn't the same old "Batman's tough and scary... but has a heart of gold" silent story I feel like we usually get around Christmastime!  At least there was something more to this than that.

Not saying it's all that great or anything... I mean, this feels like something it took all of 30-seconds to come up with from a "writing" standpoint.  The art, however, is pretty phenomenal!  While stylistically probably not everyone's cuppa tea (or cocoa), I don't think you can deny the sheer talent of Peter Nguyen.

What else is there to say?  Batman sitting down to cocoa and cookies with the Santas is a bit too "lol, random" for me to get excited about... but, I'm sure this can be a satisfying ending for some!

Tomorrow: The Man of... Snow?

Sunday, December 8, 2019

DCU Holiday Bash! #1 (1997)


DCU Holiday Bash! #1 (1997)
Superman: "The Benefaction of Peace"
New Gods: "A Highfather Christmas"
Catwoman: "Bearing Gifts We Traverse Afar"
Demon: "Satan's Little Helper"
Green Lantern: "The Vessel"
Flash: "Present Tense"
Batman: "Just Another Night"
Writers - Barry Jameson, Walter Simonson, Denny O'Neil, Ty Templeton, Michael Jan Friedman, Brian Augustyn, Mark Waid, & Jim Aparo
Pencils - Graham Nolan, Sal Buscema, Jesse Delperdang, Ty Templeton, Roger Robinson, Paul Ryan, & Jim Aparo
Inks - Josef Rubenstein, Mike Sellers, Phyllis Novin, Dick Giordano, & Kevin Nowlan
Colors - Jason Wright, Lee Loughridge, John Kalisz, Tom McCraw, & Kevin Nowlan
Letters - Albert DeGuzman, John Costanza, & Ty Templeton
Editors - Mike Carlin & Darren Vincenzo
Cover Price: $3.95

Ho-Ho-Ho!  Merry Compilation Day!

Today we'll piece together all of the chapters we looked at this week, and reheat them like so much Holiday leftovers.

This was an interesting assortment of Holiday-themed stories... though, I tell ya what, while there are some Christmas tales I would happily read and enjoy regardless of the time of year... I'm not sure any of these would make that cut.

This week's cover (which we've all been staring at variations of for a week) was drawn by Rudolfo Dimaggio, who didn't really do a whole lot overall... but, was a moderately busy fella at the time this book came out.  It's a good cover.

I'm not going to trouble y'all with a poll this time out... however, we do have some prior Action Comics Weekly/Daily poll results to look at!

First, in the Gaiman vs. Maggin arena:


Well, I'm shocked... Neil wins handily.  Actually, I am kinda surprised though... I honestly wasn't expecting Maggin to get a single vote!

Next, in our ACW "Overall" Poll (only including those features that received votes):


Blackhawk is officially the grand champeen of the Action Comics Daily Experiment!

Anyhoo, thanks to all who voted... and I hope you all enjoy the mish-mash of late-90's Holiday Cheer to follow!

--



We open atop the Daily Planet Building... and, guess what?  It's Christmas Eve!  Lois greets a man named George who has had himself one heckuva bad year.  Ya see, his wife left him, and... well, that's it.  He's planning on leaping from the building to his death so he doesn't have to spend Christmas alone.  Lois reads the situation, and decides the thing that'll get ol' George off the ledge is: telling him the story of Superman's first Christmas in Metropolis!  Thank Goodness this is from before Grounded... would-be jumpers didn't get this kind of service there!



And so, Lois spins her story... and, to be honest, it's rather dull.  It's Christmas, Superman has just recently arrived in Metropolis, and he's feeling rather lonely.  Rather than, ya know, take the five-seconds and fly back to Smallville to be with family, he's decided to continue with his normal patrolling.  Naturally, he saves a bunch of folks from near-doom, would-be robbers, low-lives and what-not.  Just another day in the life, for the Man of Steel.



Later that evening, there is an event for Feed the Homeless... during which, a former "residence-challenged" fellow named Milton Varney is going to donate a great big sack of cash to the charity.  Like, literally... it's a sack of cash, complete with a dollar sign on it.  Didn't Gene Simmons trademark that?  I dunno... whatever the case, some bad-guy, who kinda looks like Bill Cosby bursts in and tries to steal the bag.  He even takes the Feed the Homeless "spokesmodel" hostage!  I didn't realize charities such as this even had "spokesmodels", but what do I know?



Thankfully (and predictably), Superman just happened to be in the neighborhood... and so, he swoops in, heats up Cosby's pistol... and stares the baddie down.



Well, looks like our villain planned ahead for just such an event.  Ya see, he's strapped to the gills with explosives!  Got himself a dead-man's switch to boot... so, like... if any harm were to come to him, the whole joint's gonna be blown sky-high.  This appears to have Superman somewhat bamboozled... maybe this was his first time in such a conundrum?



As luck would have it, it turns out that our kick-ass philanthropist, Mr. Milton Varney is a quicker-thinker than even the Man of Steel.  He bum-rushes The Cos, and manages to gain possession of the dead-man's switch!  Superman flicks the baddie on the head for good measure.



The dust shortly settles, and the event picks up where it left off.  Superman suggests that he wait around and escort Mr. Varney back to the Mission after things wrap up... and Varney agrees, on one condition: Superman joins him for Christmas dinner.  Bada-bing, bada-boom, Superman is no longer lonely.



This story, it turns out, was exactly what ol' George needed to hear on this night.  It works like a charm!  He hops down from the ledge, and is even invited out for a cuppa coffee with Lois Lane.  What luck!  Truly a Christmas Miracle!



--

So...

Yeah, probably not my favorite Superman Christmas story... but, there was a certain amount of, I dunno... charm, to it?  Like, I get what they were going for... but, the story Lois told didn't really hit me as being all that "life-changing", ya know?  Like, there's no reason why ol' George shouldn't have cocked an eyebrow at her, and just jump anyway.  This wasn't so much the story of "hope", it was just... Hey, Superman (kinda) saved this dude, and was invited to have dinner with him.  I dunno, maybe I'm missing a deeper meaning here... I can be a bit dense at times.  It just doesn't feel like a story with all that much "oomph".

There were a few things I appreciated here, however.  Superman still being kinda new-to-the-gig, not being completely sure how to deal with the baddie's dead-man's switch.  Also, as nonsensical as it was, Superman dealing with loneliness was rather touching.  It's one of those things where it's difficult to suspend our disbelief, when we know he could be back at the Kent farm in seconds/minutes if he wanted to... or, brought his folks up (or anywhere, really) to spend the Holiday with him just as quick.  I mean, It's not like Metropolis is the only place where crimes were taking place on Christmas Day, right?  I dunno.

The whole scenario feels like a reach in order to facilitate the underlying loneliness... so, it's really hard for me to look at these story beats as anything else.

The art here was very good... I really enjoyed it.  Probably the highlight of the piece for me.

If you're still in a Super-Christmas mood, you can check out the time I looked at the Superman short in Christmas With the Super-Heroes #2 (1989), with words and art from Paul "Concrete" Chadwick.  It's a good one, I gahr-own-tee it!




--
--



We open on... say it with me, Christmas Eve!  We're in New York City, and Highfather is just brimming with Holiday Cheer.  Orion, on the other hand, just ain't feeling it... though, it's kind of his gimmick to be a Grinch.  As the continue through the hustle and bustle of last-minute shoppers and what-not, they find themselves swept into a department store by a sweaty little businessman who has mistaken them for his shop's Santa and Elf!  While Orion would much rather just club this goof over his head and be done with it, Highfather suggests that they're here for a reason... and, after all, this fella appears to be in need.



Once inside, the Manager gets a good gander at the Fourth Worlders and he's none too pleased.  Highfather looks like a bit too much like a "Hippie Abe Lincoln"... and Orion is far too tall to be an Elf.  Unfortunately, he doesn't have the time to be choosy... so, he just lets them hop into costume.



Highfather shoos him away so they can prepare... and assures him that he has nothing to worry about.  With a tap of his crooked cane, the big man is able to transform he and Orion into... well, Santa Claus and an Elf!



Orion's all "screw this Elf business!" and has Mother Box contort his face a little bit, so he can become "Santa's Gnome".  Do, uh... Gnomes have higher stats than Elves?  From a little bit of AD&D research, Gnomes were added to the rotation of races as an alternative to Elves (also, Dwarves and whatever the heck a Halfling is)... so, maybe he's just being choosy.  Or, ya know, maybe Gnomes are known to scowl a bit more.  Whatever the case, I'm not sure I'd want my kids playing with any toys this creep tinkers up.



Highfather and Orion, now fully dressed and "in character" teleport right onto the stage where the children have lined up to meet them.  Our Department Store Manager really isn't sure quite what to think...



A young girl named Deirdre hops up on Santa's lap, and whispers in his ear that she'd really like a doll for Christmas.  And so, Orion reaches into Santa's bag and... procures that very doll Deirdre desires.  Deirdre's mother begins to cry... and shares with Santa that this had been an especially difficult year, and that she wouldn't be able to afford any gifts for her daughter.  Santa gives her a wink, and assures her that miracles can happen.



The Manager looks on, and wonders just where "Santa" is getting all these toys.  He worries that he'll have to reconcile this in his inventory system before the night is out.  Just then, Deirdre and her mother approach to thank him for making this the greatest Christmas ever.  Our man(ager) is kinda dumbstruck... gobsmacked, even!  All the while, Santa and his Gnome continue handing out just the right gifts to all the boys and girls.



As the night draws to a close, the Manager heads over to our duo and... ya know, asks where all these toys are coming from.  Highfather's all "duh, I'm Santa Claus"... which is probably a bit easier to swallow than, "duh, I've got Mother Box technology up in here".  Orion then reaches into the bag, and pulls out a gift for the Manager himself!



With that, Highfather and Orion teleport away.  Just then, a distressed fat man rushes into the store.  Why, it's Horace Applegate... the fella who was supposed to play Santa Claus that evening!  Our Manager is even more perplexed... bamboozled, even!



And in that moment, our Manager, Mr. Peasley's heart grew three sizes.  So overcome with the Christmas Spirit is he, that he doesn't even yell at the late-Applegate.  He even assures him that he'll still be paid for the evening.  Peasley then sends his staff home to be with their families, and wishes them all the Merriest of Christmases.  See, Highfather Claus was right... miracles can happen!



--

Okay, not gonna lie... I absolutely loved this!

Despite the New Gods, Fourth Worldians, and all that jazz being kind of a "hard sell" for me, this story here was a ton of fun.  Was it sappy?  Was it a bit hokey?  Was it somewhat syrupy sweet?  Yes, yes, double yes... but, it's a Christmas story, and if the Hallmark Channel's taught us anything over the past decade-plus, sometimes that's all you need!

I came into this fully prepared to hate it... and to tell y'all about just how much it stunk.  Imagine my surprise when we got about three pages in, and I realized that... not only did I love it, but I also didn't want it to end!  Now, this isn't going to make me rush up to my longboxes and dig out any piece of Fourth World nonsense that had made its way into my collection... but, as a one-off visit for Christmas... I think I can safely say, you could do far worse.

If we break this down to it's beats... it's just a Christmas story, where the one old fella with a beard might just be the actual Santa Claus (at least to those in the story).  Nothing we haven't seen or read before... but still with enough charm, and enough tugging at our heartstrings that it made a bit of an impact on me.

I was very happy with this one, and it gets a solid recommendation if you're looking to add another short-story to your Holiday reading list.  Art comes from Sal Buscema, who I always associate with Marvel Comics.  In fact, in my 1,400+ days blogging here... this is the first time we've covered a story featuring his pencils!  Crazy stuff.  For what it's worth, I definitely enjoyed the art as well.  Really good stuff all around!  High recommendation (if you've got the constitution for "syrupy sweetness"!


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It's Christmas Eve... hey, I wonder if it's the same Christmas Eve as the first two stories we've looked at this week?  I dunno... anyhoo, we open at a Gotham City Pub, where some wiseguys are trying to track down a woman named Maria.  A portly Shadow King-lookin' dude at the bar inquires as to why they're trying to find this one woman in particular, and we find out her "old man" murdered this dude's brother.  A woman at the bar spills the beans, says Maria is known to hang out with a Fortune Teller named, get this, Melchoir.  Hmm... quite a "wizened" name.



The pub clears out, and with it, that portly fella.  Turns out, this heavyweight was... Catwoman!  In, uh, disguise... naturally.  She sneaks into an alley to change into her "work clothes".



Before heading to Dr. Melchoir's Natural Good-Time Family Fortune-Telling Solution, Selina peers into her bag.  Turns out she stole a pretty valuable piece earlier this evening.  That'll come up again later.



Inside, she greets Melchoir... and by "greets", I mean, snaps at him with her whip.  She wants to know what he told Wiseguy Harry Rodley.  Mel comes clean, and says that Maria is at a dance on 1st Ave.  Further, he comes clean that... he's lying.  This was all a subterfuge to buy Maria some time.  Selina makes it clear that she ain't screwing around... and manages to get him to spill the actual beans on Maria's whereabouts.



Mel guides Catwoman to Gotham City Meats, where we see Maria (baby in tow) pleading with some scumbag for help.  This dude, who I'm going to assume was her boyfriend/husband, more or less tells her she's screwed.



Just then, Harry Rodley's limousine pulls up.  Catwoman and Melchoir rush over to Maria to concoct a plan.  Selina decides that they'll hide Maria and the baby in the back of a truck... that just so happens to be full of straw.  Well, that's convenient.  Selina herself will drive away in Maria's car to draw the baddies away.



Since it's late at night, Selina's plan actually works.  Harry and Company follow Maria's car out of the lot, and are in hot pursuit.  Selina drives through a barricade blocking off a bridge undergoing major construction...



... annnnnnd, drives right off the edge... giving the impression that Maria just offed herself!  Since this is Selina Kyle, however, we know she has ways of surviving stuff like this.  Ya know, like bailing out and grabbing onto the underside of the bridge, while the Wiseguys kinda just stand around scratching their heads.



We wrap up back at Gotham City Meats, where Selina assures Maria that she's safe to leave.  She hands her a bunch of money, as well as that angel statue she'd stolen earlier that evening.  Says it'll sell for a half-mill.  What she doesn't say is, when Maria tries to sell it, there's a pretty good chance she'll wind up getting arrested.  Ah well, life's a gamble, right?


--

Well... this is the kind of story I usually associate with these "all-in" jam issues.  No consequence, nothing "pressing"... nothing we're supposed to think about once we're done reading.  I mean, that's not the worst thing in the world, but... it certainly isn't the best either.

Outside of the Melchoir-ness, and the woman named Maria taking refuge in straw... there isn't a whole lot about this story that screams "Christmas".  I guess they can't all be as festive as a Mall Santa... but, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for something a bit more "of the season".

Selina's Robin Hood act was... I dunno, I suppose her heart was in the right place... but, really... what does she expect Maria to do?  Head over to a Fence on Christmas Eve (or shortly after) to try and sell a just-stolen angel statue?  That's kind of a mean trick, innit?  I suppose that's just one of those things we're not supposed to think about.

Oh well... they can't all be winners!

--
--



We open with a bald fella engaging in a strange ritual in which he hopes to summon a Demon, with whom he'll exchange his mortal soul for... something.  Something really cool, I'd assume.  Wouldn'tcha know it, the Demon he winds up calling is our pal, Etrigan... who runs down how the deal will go.

Before the fella can make his request, however, his precocious young daughter bursts into the room... and wonders who this scary visitor might be.  Dad tells her it's just one of "Santa's Helpers", and to get back into bed.

Well, kiddo, thinking this horned beast is actually pals with Santa, asks what he brought for her.  She reaches into his box o' tricks, and procures a Batman doll... which, we're going to assume she was wishing for.

Since the deal with Dad was still in effect... it turns out that the bald fella just unwittingly exchanged his soul for... that very Batman doll.  Etrigran squeals with glee, and vacates the scene... leaving the little girl wondering why her father is now so down in the dumps.

--

This was clever... and fun.  Didn't need more than two-pages to be told, either!  I'm also glad we never found out what Dad was going to swap his soul for... because, that very well could've turned this tale from dark comedy to bleak tragedy.  I think we can assume, however, from the absolute maddened look on Dad's face that... his request was going to fit more into the "selfish" column than "selfless".

I like this use of Etrigan, where... I mean, it's not necessarily a story about him... he's more there just as a tool/facilitator.  He's certainly not a character I'd root for, but I can appreciate him getting a "bargain" on some dude's soul through a fluke like this.  I mean, if you deal with the devil... you're probably going to get burnt!

I just wonder if Dad was trying to dissolve his marriage or something... now, that would be tragic!


--
--



We open with Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner attending to a crashed (and leaking) oil tanker.  The use of oil here is pretty clever, as we'll come to find out as we continue.  Our man is so busy that he's running a little late for a very important date.  Ya see, he's supposed to meet a pal at Radu's so they can head to Temple together.  It's the first night of Hanukkah, and while Kyle isn't Jewish, he's more than happy to broaden his horizons and learn more about the faith of his friends.



Kyle's buddy has brought his sister along for the evening... and together they give ol' Radu the inch-deep/mile-wide explanation of "The Miracle of the Oil" and Hanukkah.  The sister, Beccah talks of the Maccabees... which, always reminds me of when Ross from Friends tries to explain Hanukkah to his son (while wearing an armadillo costume).



Kyle enters the scene, and... I think we're supposed to assume that he immediately begins hitting on Beccah... though, that isn't entirely clear.  Whatever the case, she's impressed by his Hanukkah knowledge, and the subject shifts to that of miracles (in the overall sense).  Kyle, acting uncharacteristically pragmatic, claims that miracles aren't really his bag.  Keeping in mind, he's wearing a cosmically powered ring while he says this.



As the chat continues, it's revealed that Beccah is actually a Rabbi.  This kind of freaks Kyle out... because, he was apparently hitting on her.  Ever so humble, she tells him this isn't the first time that's happened to her.  Really though... if this is an example of how Kyle flirts, I haven't the foggiest notion how he managed to date Donna or Jade.



The trio arrives at the Synagogue, only to find it's been horribly vandalized!  Swastikas, hate-speech... it's just an ugly scene.  A maintenance man named Otto has been beaten up and left on the ground.  He reports that some punks had stormed the place earlier... and, in addition to the hate-tags, they also stole the Vessel for the Eternal Flame.


Kyle heads out... and, he ain't messin' around.  Nearby, he finds an empty can of spray paint.  Conveniently, it's an "unusual brand" of paint, and it's only sold in one nearby store.  Kyle, as Green Lantern, pays the proprietor a visit... and we find out that the shop-keep remembers exactly who he sold this particular can of paint to.  Ya see, this raving, hate-fueled Anti-Semite decided to join the store's mailing list.  Whoops.  Meanwhile, the baddies celebrate having stolen the Vessel.


Moments later, Green Lantern bursts in through the wall... and faces off with the thugs.  Just as they're about to pounce, Kyle's Power Ring runs out of juice!  Uh-oh.


But then... as if by a miracle, the Ring is re-energized!  Kyle is able to will himself up a whole bunch of gimmicks, and beat the punks up but-good!  He reclaims the Vessel and brings it back to Beccah.


We wrap up with Kyle and his friends attending the evening's service, where the topic is miracles and faith.  Kyle looks down at his Ring and begins to ponder.


--

Now, this was a pretty clever story!  From the oil tanker, to Kyle's ring running out of juice... this was very "on point" for the Holiday.

Sure, it kinda round-peg/square-holed Kyle a bit to make it all work.  I don't recall him ever being so pessimistic when it comes to things like miracles... but, ya know, all in service of the story, right?  Speaking of "out of character", Kyle's attempt at flirting here... if, in fact that's what it was supposed to be... was very, very weak!  It was hardly even small-talk, much less a flirtation.  Pretty presumptuous of Beccah to assume she was being hit on!  I'd hate to think of how she feels when the dude at the Drive-Thru asks if she "wants fries with that".  That might be akin to a marriage proposal to her!

As far as the rest of the story is concerned... it was good!  The bad guys got their comeuppance, and Kyle learned a valuable lesson.  The path we took to get there might've been a tad on the convenient side, but, when we've only got a handful of pages to work with, it's probably best not to use the lion's share of em on "detective work".

Overall, a decent story that adds some non-Christmas Holiday flair to this package!  I feel like diversifying this sort of collection provides a great service to the readership!


--
--



We open twenty-minutes before Wally and Linda's Christmas Party, and the former has just set up the Tree.  He's overly pleased with himself, not only for that, but because this year, he'd found the perfect gift for his girlfriend: The Fastest Microwave Oven on Earth.  Woof.  C'mon, dude.  Anyhoo, as he's just about to wrap his gift, he overhears Linda on the phone with her mother.  She excitedly reports that this year, she told Wally exactly what she wanted... and she's sure to be getting just that.  Our man is absolutely gobsmacked... as he doesn't remember any such discussion having taken place!



And so... he suits up, jams out, and tries to figure out just what this perfect gift might've been!  First stop, Boone's Department Store downtown.  Inside he sees the second ugliest sweater in this story (Wally's own sweater from earlier might've just edged it out).  He decides the gift Linda wanted must've been... a scarf.  He buys the thing, only to realize it's 100% cashmere... which Linda is allergic to.  Imagine that, a cashmere allergy?



Since shops are about to close up for the night... Mr. West must go west.  Next stop, Poccini's in Beverly Hills.  There, he sees the same ugly sweater... and flashes back to the chat he and Linda had about gifts.  The discussion just so happened to have occurred right in front of these nasty sweaters... only problem being, for the life of him, he cannot remember what she said!  He decides here to buy her an expensive cosmetics case.  When the shop-girl asks what Linda does for a living, he tells her that she's on the TV news... to which, the girl informs him that, Linda's got a half-dozen people prettying up her face, the last thing she'll need is a make-up kit!


Rushing through the time-zones, our next stop is Hawaii!  Wally stops at a Curio Shop, where... hey, wouldja lookit that, the ugly sweaters are there!  Wally winds up choosing a piece of jewelry... which is all well and good, until he learns that it's a wedding band.  Whoops.


And so, further West we go... so far West, it become East!  Flash arrives in Hong Kong... and nearly buys some scary statues for his lady love, before thinking better of it.  Defeated, he heads out of the shop and slumps against the wall.  When he looks up, he sees the Wong Fu Factory Outlet... which, just so happens to be filled to the brim with, say it with me, those ugly sweaters!  Again Wally racks his brain to try and remember what Linda asked for... and, it finally comes to him!


We rejoin Wally at the Christmas Party, where Linda has just opened her gift.  Heyyy, it's the ugly sweater!  She's, uh, not entirely sure what to make of such a grand gesture.  Wally informs her that this isn't for her to wear, but as a reminder of the conversation they had in front of the display at the store... about what Linda really wanted for Christmas.


Turns out, Linda didn't want nuthin'!  She was telling Wally that she has everything she could ever need... and gifts don't prove anything.  I mean, that begs the question as to what she was telling her mother over the phone earlier... but, whattayagonnado?  Wally and Linda embrace, and prepare to share a long winter's nap.


--

This was cute.  Sure, we gotta kinda twist some things to make it work... but, it's still a cute story.

I'm not the biggest fan of making Wally into a sorta clueless sitcom dad/husband.  I mean, a microwave oven?  C'mon, dude.  I'd expect a bit more from him than that... especially from the fellas who write his monthly adventures.

Second, Linda's conversation with her mother.  Why wouldn't she have just said, "I told him not to get me anything" rather than, "I told him exactly what to get me...", when that thing is... "nothing"?  Nobody talks like that.  It just doesn't make any sense.  Least it served its purpose by getting this story off and running (pun!).

The story overall was pretty neat... gave me some "warm fuzzies", which I suppose is good enough.


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--



We can probably assume that this is Christmas Eve (or thereabouts).  Alfred finds a Christmas missive from Tim Drake, wishing him the Happiest of Holidays.  Alfred then heads into the Batcave, where Bruce walks past him without a word... hops into the Batmobile, and speeds away.

After the dust settles, Alfred notices that Master Bruce left him a Christmas gift... annnnnd, that's it!

--

Ey, Jim!  We came up two pages shawt ta fill in da Christmas Book... ya t'ink ya can whip somethin' up?  We arreddy drew Batman on da covuh... ya gotta bail us out!

Really, DC?  This story... again?  It feels like any time we cover a Batman Christmas story, there's always a scene where Alfred is surprised (and touched) that Bruce left him a gift.  By now, isn't it just a known fact that this is going to happen?

At least it looked pretty!  Really though, this is such a non-story... and, I wish we'd stop getting variations of it.

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