DC Universe Holiday Special ’09 (2010)

DC Universe Holiday Special ’09 (February, 2010)
Batman: “Silent Knight”
Superman: “Man of Snow”
Flash: “Flash Before Christmas”
Doom Patrol: “The (Beast) Boy Who Hated Christmas”
Superboy: “Party Gift”
Martian Manhunter: “Reason for the Season”
Angel & the Ape
Sgt. Rock: “A Peace on Earth”
Enemy Ace: “Stille Nacht”
B’wana Beast: “The Hunt for Christmas”
Captain Marvel: “Home for Christmas”
Deadman: “Unbearable Loss”
Red Tornado: “A Night Before Christmas Story”
Huntress: “Naughty or Nice”
Ragman: “Seeing the Light”
Adam Strange: “Auld Lang Syne”
Writers – Jay Faerber, Arie Kaplan, Amy Wolfram, Sterling Gates, Ralph Soll, Fred Van Lente, Andrew Pepoy, Billy Tucci, Seamus Kevin Fahey, Sean Fahey, Beau Smith, Steve Horton, Scott Kolins, David Tischman, J. Torres, Rob Levin, & Shannon Eric Denton
Pencils – Peter Nguyen, Nick Runge, Daniel Leister, Rodney Buchemi, Nick Dragotta, Andrew Pepoy, Billy Tucci, Howard Chaykin, Gary Kwapisz, Afua Richardson, Scott Kolins, Adam Archer, Hubert Khan Michael, Brian Ching, & Nick J. Napolitano
Inks – Gabe Eltaeb, Greg Adams, Sandra Hope, Julio Ferreira, & Dan Green
Colors – Peter Nguyen, Ulises Arreola, Nei Ruffino, Chuck Pires, Pete Pantazis, Nick Dragotta, Paul Mounts, Hi-Fi, Edgar Delgado, Pamela Rambo, Afua Richardson, C.P. Smith, Jonny Rench, Tom Smith, Michael Atiyeh, & Allen Passalaqua
Letters – Rob Clark Jr., Travis Lanham, Jared K. Fletcher, John J. Hill, & Sal Cipriano
Editors – Adam Schlagman & Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $5.99

Merry Christmas, Gang!

It’s hard to believe this is the fourth Christmas we’re celebrating here at the humble blog… boy, the time sure does fly!  When I started this I was still in my mid-30’s… and here I sit, just two days shy of 40!

It’s been a pretty difficult holiday season for me personally… but, as they often do, everything seemed to work out in the end.  I hope you all have had great times with family, friends… and food!

I try not to cross-the-streams all that much between the blog and any of my podcasting ventures (I doubt anybody really cares about either, much less both), but I recently put out a show where I discuss the history of this blog… and one of the things that kept coming up was how milestones can be both a blessing and a curse.

When we finished up Action Comics Daily at the end of November, I told myself I was done.  But, ya know… Christmas on Infinite Earths is one of my favorite things to do, so I decided to push on until Christmas.  And now… I’m just seven days away from having another “365” under my belt.  Then, come January 1, 2020… I’ll be less than a month away from my four-year daily bloggiversary.  Then… we’ll be just a few weeks away from the 1,500th Daily Discussion!

Where does it end?  It’s like an addiction.  If only Santa would’ve delivered those extra couple of hours a day I’ve been asking for forever now… then there wouldn’t be a worry!

Anyhoo… Merry Christmas from me and mine to you and yours… I hope you are all having a wonderful time!  If you feel like you’re having too good a time… well, continue reading this post… there’s a lot of phoned-in half-baked Holiday Goodness to really take the wind out of your sails here!

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!

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?

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!

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!

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!

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!

Angel and the Ape are collecting for needy children outside the local community center.  Some uptight (assumedly) rich fella walks by and claims to be far too busy to give to the tots.

And so, Sam engages in some raucous “kong-speak” to scare the fella into handing over wads of folding-money… and everything’s hunky-dory.

Wow, that was quick… still had more story than many of those Superman two-pagers we looked at during Action Comics Daily though!  I kid, I kid… mostly.

I thought this was fine… mostly for the art.  Okay, almost completely for the art.  Feels like just a way to pad the story count here.  I mean, if you were to look at the Table of Contents page on this bad-boy (which I’ll include in our compilation piece)… you’d think you were getting hundreds of pages of Holiday Cheer!  And yes, this Angel and the Ape page is listed as a “story” on that Table of Contents!

I’ll give Pepoy one thing… he resisted the urge to include a Hostess Cakes “joke” at the end of this.  I swear, in the thirty-seconds it took for me to read this, I’d could’a bet money there’d be some weak-sauce cheap-heat Hostess reference at the end of it!  It just had that sort of tone/feel to it.  Glad it didn’t go that way!

Overall… this was fine… fun… and darned pretty to look at.  Not bad!

Guess what day it is… c’mon, you got this one.  Yes, my friends… it’s Christmas Eve (1944)!  We open with Sgt. Rock out patrolling in the snow… when, as he passes under a bridge… he walks right by a German Soldier!  They both scramble for their guns, and wind up slipping in the slush… with their firearms primed on one another, both men start laughing at the absurdity of the situation.

The German Solider asks Frank if he can spare a cigarette… and the two become fast friends.  For the next little while, they drink, smoke, and share stories of their lives back home.  Family pictures are exchanged… tales of woe are told, it’s really quite a powerful little scene.

When the bottles are empty, they get back to their feet… and remind one another that they’re both under strict orders from on high to “shoot on sight” when they are confronted by the enemy.  And so… they do.

They both empty their guns… into the air.

They wish each other a Merry Christmas, and part peacefully… both likely knowing that the next time their paths cross, it won’t turn out the same way.

I really enjoyed this.  This might low-key be the best story in the issue.

I’m am, however, kind of “of two minds” on it… in that, I dunno… I feel like we’ve been here before.  Regular readers will know that I’m not really a “war comics” kind of guy… quite frankly, (outside of a certain era of Blackhawk) they bore me.  That being said, the only times I can really force myself to read them… is usually when they’re in the form of some sort of Holiday special.

And yeah… this feels like a “been there, done that” sort of scenario.  It’s not bad… not in the slightest, it’s just very well-trodden ground.  Enemies putting their differences aside on one special day a year… I mean, it’s even happened in real life during the Christmas Truce of 1914.  Again though, when it’s done as well as it is here… I can’t be mad at it.

Not only was the story wonderfully touching… the art was… oof.  The art was phenomenal… and so fitting of the tone of the story.  Just a wonderful little Christmas story… and one I’d highly recommend.

We open on Christmas Eve… Eve, and the year is… hmm, 1914.  Feel like we’ve referred to that particular Christmas a time or two before here.  One time in particular while talking about the very same fella we’re going to look at here!  The long and short of it is, General Werner Dietrich has concluded that the next big German offensive will happen on Christmas Day.  The Men aren’t pleased in the slightest… but don’t dare speak up.  After the meeting a Lieutenant named Eric sidles up to Von Hammer to get his thoughts on the matter.  Our Enemy Ace is steadfast that “orders are orders”…

In the day leading up to the attack, Von Hammer is questioned a few more times by his peers… and his answer remains the same.  They have orders… it’s not theirs to wonder why.  Before we know it, it’s Christmas Day… and the German fighters are sent west to get the jump on the English and French.

Enemy Ace and Company fly over some European wasteland as our man laments the fact that just five short months ago, this was a peaceful place.  As they near their destination… they can suddenly hear something quite strange… they hear, singing?!

It’s the English and French… they’re singing Christmas Carols at Von Hammer and the Gang!  And so, the Germans come in for a landing… to share in an unsanctioned Christmas ceasefire with their fellow European Soldiers.

What’s that thing… ya know, where you learn about something, or are reminded of something you hadn’t thought of in quite some time… but then, it’s like everywhere you look, it’s all you can see?  Is that a thing?  I could’a sworn it was one’a those literary “biases” you’d learn about in undergrad English and Lit classes.

Whatever it’s called… that’s what I’ve got right now.  I honestly wasn’t expecting to see a direct reference to the Christmas Truce/Ceasefire of 1914 here!  It’s funny how stuff like that happens!

Enemy Ace is certainly a complex character… I’m not sure I could read him in “large doses”, however, for these little stories I find him quite captivating.  A loyal soldier who follows orders without question… even when he has reservations about what he’s being asked to do.  There’s definitely story potential in that… and for this story in particular, it works quite well.  Really come away from this one with a deeper appreciation of War Comics… though, I’m still not overly anxious to do a deeper dive.

Something weird I noticed here is… Howard Chaykin on art.  Not that Chaykin in and of himself is weird… what’s weird is, this is the very first time we’re talking about him on this blog!  It’s been four years of daily discussion… and somehow Howard Chaykin has never come up!  That’s weird!  I do want to state for the record that I loved his art here!  I feel like it matched the tone of the story and really added a lot to the overall package!

We open with some smugglers attempting to flee the B’wana Beast and his animal pals.  Oh, it’s Christmas, by the way.  With the aid of a rhino and some monkeys, the Beast is able to overtake the baddies… and commandeer their loot-filled truck!  All the while, a hymm credited as “God Moves in Mysterious Ways” by William Lowper fills our narrative captions.

The Beast is able to kick off the final few smugglers, perhaps even sending them to their deaths… I mean, one dude goes flying off a cliff!  Even if he survives the fall, I don’t see him surviving all that long!

Anyhoo, the B’wana Beast flips the truck… and has to use his larger animal buddies to deliver the loot back to a nearby village who had been offered aid by a Christian Mission.  And so, it looks as though they will have something to celebrate this Christmas.

This was an odd one, wasn’t it?

First, I mean… it features the B’wana Beast.  I know he had a bit of a surge in popularity (relatively speaking) due to an appearance or a few on Justice League Unlimited… heck, I’m almost positive he got an action figure out of the deal.  Still though… a weird pick to be featured here.  At least to me.

Second, the fact that it’s so heavily rooted in religion.  This was kind of a shock, seeing a nearly “current year” comic book narrated via a hymm… kinda jarring!  It’s not something I minded all that much, though I could see it taking some folks out of the story.  Worth noting, the citation here isn’t quite right.  I did a little digging to see if this was a “real” hymm… and it is, only rather than being called “God Moves in Mysterious Ways”, it’s actually called “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”… and the fella who wrote it is William Cowper, not William Lowper.  Now proofreading and attention to detail like that actually does make this feel like a “current year” comic!  Good work, folks!

Now, as far as the “story” is concerned… there really isn’t much of one.  B’wana Beast is doing a nice thing for a poor village on Christmas… and, I suppose that’s all it really needed to be.  The art’s pretty good, I never had to second-guess what I was looking at… and sometimes that’s all we can ask for!

It’s Christmas, and Captain Marvel (actually not Shazam this time out!) is duking it out with Ibac.  Their battle sends them both crashing through a Mission… which gives them a measure of pause.  They know they just messed things up for everyone who stays there!  Well, that’s sort of the “best case scenario” here… let’s just hope there weren’t any families inside at the time of impact!

Cap and Ibac reflect on their own pasts… and their connections to homelessness.  And so, they decide to put their differences aside for a time to rebuild the joint they’d just destroyed.

Once that’s done, Marvel offers Ibac amnesty… or, they can go back to fighting.  Although he’s certain he can take the Big Red Cheese in a fight, the baddie takes Cap up on his offer.  We wrap up with Billy Batson volunteering at the Mission… and he’s working next to an old fella who is wearing some very familiar armbands.  Hmm…

This is another one of dem “of two minds” sort of stories.  In a vacuum, it’s pretty touching.  Two enemies putting their differences aside for the greater good… Christmas spirit, all that jazz.

The fact that Cap and Ibac actually stopped fighting to rebuild a place they’d just destroyed has the unfortunate side-effect of reminding us (or me) that hero/villain battles often result in quite a bit of property damage… and almost never do the fighters stop to both reflect and pick up the pieces.

Probably the most interesting thing about this story is… the fact that our hero is called “Captain Marvel” and not Shazam!  It just feels like they’ve been trying to change that forever at this point… but, I suppose in the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe they weren’t so hard-and-fast over it.  He’s even called “Captain Marvel” in the Table of Contents page… because, yes, even though this was only a single page… it got a spot on the list.

Overall… decent enough little story… really nice art.

We open with a look at the front cover of the Gotham… er, Gazette?  Is that the official newspaper of Gotham?  I dunno… the fact that it’s a newspaper is all that matters at the moment.  The headline reads that there are 13 children missing… courtesy of the Scarecrow.  Oh, also… it’s Christmas Day.  We’re introduced to a homeless boy named William, who is using newspapers to keep warm… and a woman named Karen, who simply-put cannot deal with what the paper reports.

Ya see, this Karen… just so happens to be, the Scarecrow’s Mother!  Dang, she looks pretty good for her age!  She blames herself for her son’s numerous crime-sprees… and it looks like she’s really feeling this one.  Probably because she’s just received confirmation of her guilt… via her evil offspring!

From here we get a quick-n-dirty origin story for the Scarecrow.  He was taken from Karen as a baby and raised by his Great Grandmother… who, from all accounts, was a real piece of work.  She basically tortured children… and twisted little Johnny into the psychopath he’d become.

Unable to cope with the guilt, Karen ascends to the top of her apartment building… and dives off!

Here’s where Deadman enters the story.  He sneaks into Karen’s body… and manages to sorta-kinda save her life… well, her soul, anyway.  Deadman/Karen splash into the water below… which is convenient.  Much easier to finish this story in the water, rather than, ya know… on the pavement.  I wonder how much water-front apartment living in Gotham costs?  Maybe Mrs. Scarecrow is doing really well for herself?

In the drink, Deadman and Karen(‘s soul) have a chat.  He more or less tells her to let go of all of her guilt… and she cries ethereal tears.

The homeless boy from earlier, William notices Karen’s body… and rushes in to help her.  As he pulls her out of the water and attempts to resuscitate her… Deadman tries to impress upon her the value of her life.  And so, she chooses to live.

We wrap up the following day… still really bummed out about the Scarecrow’s most recent crime.  Looks like he got away with it… which, doesn’t say all that much for, ya know, Batman.  Wandering the streets, she happens across young William… and she offers to take him out for lunch. 

Well that was kind of weird, wunnit?

Not so much a Christmas story… heck, feels kind of like an inventory story that, as luck would have it, just happened to include a newspaper that they could date as December, 25!

I feel like I’ve used the “of two minds” excuse to fence-sit a few times over the past couple of weeks… but, here we are again.  As a story on it’s own… it’s okay.  It’s well-told, and has all of the nuts and bolts of an above-average anthology chapter.  It fits into (the then) continuity, and doesn’t really hurt anything.  Sometimes that’s all we can hope for!

On the other hand, this kind of illustrates one of my main problems with the Deadman character.  There’s really no way Karen should have survived the fall, simply because she “chose life”.  There’s also the convenience of her just happening to live in an apartment building within inches of deep water.  I mean, I get it… it’s a Miracle, yadda yadda yadda… but, again… it’s a Deadman story where he can more or less snap his fingers to remove any possible tension or stakes.  As you all may know… that ain’t my favorite sort of deal.

Overall though… I dunno, it ended on a high note.  One can hope that maybe Karen decided to take William in, to give her a second chance at raising a productive member of society… and give him a warm place to sleep.  Not bad.

We open on… Christmas Eve, and Reddy is taking care of some last-minute shopping for his daughter, Traya.  Ya see, the hot toy this season is the Ecko-Gecko doll… and every store in a three-state radius is completely sold-out.  In fairness to those maintaining inventory… it is Christmas Eve, perhaps our John Smith should’ve considered looking for the hottest toy going a bit earlier.  Or, hell, it’s 2009… look online!  Anyhoo, a little old lady saunters up, revealing she has a Ecko-Gecko doll she’d happily part with… for two-hunnid bones!

Reddy scoffs, claiming that to be a 345% increase on the MSRP… so, I guess he’s never heard of “war profiteering”.  His hesitation provides the opportunity for a fellow shopper to rush up and offer the walleyed old biddy $250!  Ya snooze, ya lose Tornado!

So, ticked off and completely disappointed with humanity, our Red Tornado whips up several cyclones… collecting all of the snow from outside and depositing it right at the exit points of the building… in effect, trapping everyone inside the store.  Let’s hope there isn’t a fire.

The patrons inside the shop start freaking out, wondering just how they’ll get home to their families (and demanding children).  A man with a bushy mustache suggests that this all might be a sign… giving them the time and opportunity to reflect on what Christmas is really all about.  John suggests they all join in and sing carols along with the store’s P.A. system.  Really, dude?  Okay.  Anyhoo, a clerk emerges from one of the aisles to calm everyone down and assure them that the Fire Department will soon be there to let ’em all out.

Our story concludes on Christmas Morning, where an excited Traya hops into her parents’ bed to wake ’em up and wish ’em a Merry Christmas.  John asks if she wants to see what Santa brought her… to which she says “Nah, I got all day for that…” and would rather spend time being thankful for what she already has.  Bulllllllll…oney.

Sometimes, and I’m not sure if this is due to some of the stories we’ve already read during Christmas on Infinite Earths this year, but sometimes… it’s hard to suspend disbelief to fully enjoy a “slice of life” story.  I get that “looking for the hot toy of the season” is a story that has been so overused at this point that it almost writes itself… and I understand how superior we can all feel in the reading, because certainly none of us would act like these ugly, greedy, selfish people in the store… but, c’mon… Red Tornado’s in the Justice League.  He couldn’t give the Flash a call and have him scoop up an Ecko-Gecko from the factory in China?  We’ve seen Wally do something just like that twice already this season!

It’d be one thing if this was a story looking to be comedic… but, I didn’t get that at all.  This was a commentary on consumerism… in an overpriced comic book they expected people to shell out six bucks for!  From an industry that tries non-stop to whup its ever-shrinking fandom into a frenzy with incentives and variants and gimmicks… is this really the place to look down our collective noses at people who want to buy things?  Not a good look.

This was certainly not my favorite story in this book… I know what it’s trying to “learn” us, but it fails.  It fails as a comedy, because it isn’t funny… it fails as satire/commentary, because it’s far too unsubtle.  I mean, the only things these ugly consumers were missing were snouts and curly tails.  Our hero throws a tantrum, and potentially endangers everyone who made him upset.  Just not great.  The ending… well, again, I see what they were going for… but, it came across as too unauthentic to properly receive.

We open in a candy store, where the shop owner is giving a young fella some side-eye.  Ya see, the child happens to be African-American… and so, the owner thinks he might be up to no good.  He even goes as far as having the poor kid empty his pockets to ensure he didn’t steal anything!  Huntress watches this all go down, and wonders if the Candyman should wind up on the “Naughty or Nice” list.  After kicking the kid out of the shop, a white fella enters the scene, who is welcomed with open arms.  Ya see where this one’s going?  Naturally, the white dude pulls out a pistol and proceeds to rob the joint!

After robbing the place, the thief steps outside… right into the path of the Huntress… she takes care of him pretty quick.

The story wraps up with the Candyman inviting that same African-American child back into the store and giving him a bunch of free sweets.  Helena looks on and thinks that she’s seen the “worst” the shop owner can do… and now she’s considering moving him to the “nice” list.  Wait’ll she finds out about that refrigerator full of body parts he’s got in his basement!

Is it too late to send this one back for a Wonder Woman story?  I mean, barf.

These stories we’re reading “after the staples” have been pretty weak… it’s almost as though DC feels like most people would give up after reading two or three of the included stories… and that nobody would ever see any of this stuff!  Well, they weren’t counting on this idiot blogger, now were they?

So, whatta we got here?  It’s a classic (and heavy-handed) “Don’t judge a book by its cover” story.  We really could have ceased right after that opening caption… because that’s as good as this story was going to get.  It’s cliche, it allows us all to feel kind of superior, and… well, it really doesn’t do a whole lot more.

As with a lot of these wildly-weak stories we’ve looked at over the past couple of weeks, the art is really nice.  HKM really makes the best of the four pages he’s given… and navigates to a good story with his work.  The most interesting part of this story for me is the fact that this particular candy store had a pretty big Sugar-Free candy section!  As a dude with a sweet-tooth who’s (mostly) cut sugar from his diet… that’s something I’d definitely appreciate!

This is going to be a weird one to synopsize… because, it’s not so much a story, but a vignette.  We’ve talked a little about Hanukkah over the past several weeks… I wanna say there have been two other Hanukkah stories this year.  In one, Kyle Rayner learned all about the Maccabees and their uprising against the Syrians.  Well, that’s kind of the story we get here… only, it’s being delivered alongside a battle between Ragman and some street toughs.

Ragman, like the Maccabees before him, is victorious… and makes his way into a Temple.  He is greeted by a Rabbi who calls this latest fight a “miracle” in that he was able to eek out a victory against all odds.

Ragman is then invited to light the final candle on the Menorah… and the Rabbi assures him that better days are ahead. 

So yeah… a tough one to synopsize.  But, overall… not a bad little feature!

It’s the first story we’ve had in a number of days that didn’t make me roll my eyes… and didn’t only exist for the express purpose of making the writer feel superior to those around him.  So, that’s a win!

I gotta admit, I don’t know diddly-ding-dong-squat about Ragman.  I was nearly as surprised to see him included in this special as I was the B’wana Beast.  But, unfamiliarity does sometimes breed curiosity… and, I’d say this story actually whet my appetite somewhat for further Ragman stories.  That in and of itself tells me that this story, short as it was, was something of a success.

So yeah (again), not much to this one… but sometimes, we really don’t need anything more than this.  We don’t always need “commentary” or “satire”… sometimes a story can be told in a single scene.  I don’t know if this story just had the benefit of appearing after a couple of particularly heinous features… or, if I just plain dug this one.  I guess we’ll never know!

We open with Adam Strange arriving back on Earth ready to spend New Year’s Eve with his wife and daughter.  Only problem there is, no sooner does he get back than he’s called into action… fighting some laughable demon critter.  When he finishes up with that one… several more threats start popping up on his radar… and so, he’s in for a very busy night.

Adam arrives at the location where he was supposed to meet with his family, and laments the fact that he’d missed ringing in the New Year… only, it’s just 9:31 P.M…. so, he didn’t?  I mean, dude’s got a watch, right?  How would he not know?  Anyhoo… Alanna greets him and they kiss in front of their daughter.  The End?

Well, that was something…

Since it was Adam Strange, should I get a jump on 2020 and just rate it 10/10 without providing any examples as to why I feel that way?  Tom King outta retweet that, right?  Ehh, maybe not.

This was a page-filler… and not a great one, at that.  Adam has a busy night… and suddenly forgets how to read his watch?  That’s literally the whole story.  As with the rest of the lackluster offerings in this Holiday Special, the art is very nice.  I guess that’s what I’m gonna hang my hat on here.  Nice art!

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4 thoughts on “DC Universe Holiday Special ’09 (2010)

  • Chris U

    Ok so we have seen Christmas stories, Hanukkah stories and even a New Years story. I have to ask have you ever come across a Kwanzaa story? Or maybe a Solstice story? (Honestly a Wonder Woman story about how she celebrates a winter solstice holiday on Themiscara would be a great potential read.)

    From one Chris to another, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!
    I can't wait to see where the blog will be heading in the future.

    • Chris

      From one Chris to another, MERRY (belated) CHRISTMAS!

      Sorry I've been so quiet on the comments-front… gonna try and be better 'bout that moving forward!

      There actually IS a Black Lightning Kwanzaa story in one of the other DC Holiday compilations I was flipping through earlier this month! Maybe we'll take a look at that issue in July!

  • Dave-El

    Merry Christmas, Happy New Years, Holy Moley and Great Ceasar's Ghost too! Chris Is On Infinite Earths is a favorite comic book blog destination! Keep up the great work!

    • Chris

      Thanks very much, Dave! Hope your Holidays have been (and continue to be) great!


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