[Editor’s note: This review may contain holiday cheer…and spoilers.]
Writers: Paul Dini, Tim Seeley, Eric Esquivel, Heath Corson, Gustavo Duarte, Mariko Tamaki, James Tynion IV, Gene Luen Yang, K. Perkins, James Asumus, Bill Freiberger, Steve Orlando, Vita Ayala and V. Ken Marion
Artists: Elsa Charretier, Ian Churchill, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Gustavo Duarte, Mattias Bergara, Robbi Rodriguez, Andrea Mutti, Paolo Pantalena, Reilly Brown, Thomas Pitilli and Mick Grey
Inkers: Hi-Fi, Alex Sollazzo, Marcelo Maiolo, J. Nanjan, Alejandra Sanchez, Ben Hunzeker, Arif Prianto, Scott Hanna and Tony Avina.
Because Task Force X drank the party budget in March during their St. Patrick’s Day party, the DC universe is treated with the DC Rebirth Holiday Special. What is that? It is a bunch of short, holiday-themed, stories written and drawn by the DC stable of talent, with transitions and cutaways featuring Harley Quinn as the master of ceremonies. In the first story, Batman and Superman stop a monster only to find that Clark has not gotten Jon the present he wants. He flies all over the country trying to get the present only to have to stop and fight villains along the way. In story two, Clark and Jon visit the Fortress of Solitude to pick up a present for Krypto the Superdog. Clark explains to Jon what it means for him to be Kryptonian and human. Next, Detective Bobo Chimp teams up with Batman to find Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That is not a joke. If you read that sentence again, it will be the same. There is no other way to summarize that story. The fourth tale involves Wonder Woman and the Hellblazer himself John Constantine as they team up to look for some lost folks. John is trying to find a witch called Brangwen and Diana is looking for Dionysus because, you know, that is a thing that happens on the winter solstice.
In another tale, we learn how the Flash and the Rogues hugged it out one Christmas and called a permanent truce so Barry can play Santa and deliver presents to foster kids. There is a one-page story featuring the new Super-Man. There is talk of pollution, forgiveness and food. We see Kate Kane reminisce about Hanukkah and her father. Of course, just because she wants to be a normal person, she is called on to don her Batwoman gear and knock some cyberbullies down to size. The Titans’ new year in New York is full of drag racing, fresh starts and kisses. Babs and Dick meet up on the Brooklyn Bridge to have a New Year date, but they both get there late because you know that happens when one is out super heroing. Jessica and Simon spend Three Kings Day being tested by three alien kings. Spoiler alert: they win. It is a holiday special after all.
Paul Dini created Harley Quinn so the cutaway story that weaves these disparate and somewhat tiring stories together is the crowning achievement of this book. Dini knows Harley best and he gives her the voice that we all know and love. While the rest of the stories are told with an eye to lightening up some of our favorite heroes, Dini’s story is perfectly placed and spaced out to keep this book moving along. Elsa Charretier makes this even more fun by capturing the softness of the old timey “holiday special” TV shows that this is spoofing. The colors are a bit too bright by Hi-Fi, but that is the point. It is hard to tell if this is a joke or if this is an earnest tribute. Either way, Dini, Charretier and Hi-Fi steal the show.
That is a bit harsh. The artwork in this book is joyous. The Bobo/ Batman team-up story would have been unreadable if not for the art. Take a look at this:
Duarte may have co-written this tale told by a talking monkey and for that, he will have to pay, but take a look at the Frank Miller-esque Batman. Squat, square and sour equals perfection.
The Batwoman story and the Green Lanterns stories are the most superheroish of these tales. In fact, the K. Perkins’ helmed Batwoman comes in a close second to Harley’s Holiday Special. Not only is it full of action and plot, the artwork by Paolo Pantalena is inspired. There is a scene where Kate gets knocked down and her drink spills only to form batwings on the sidewalk. It is kind of brilliant.
It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Jessica Cruz. So, having her overcome some of her own anxiety is always a positive. This final tale in this 86-page extravaganza is all about teamwork and hope for the future. Those are the main themes of the Green Lanterns book, so everything works perfectly here.
There is a lot of cheese in this book. Not actual cheese but metaphorical cheese. I am not a huge fan of the holiday season in general. I am not much of a gift giver unless it is the birthday of a person I know and care about or if I see something someone I know or care about will really love and appreciate. The first few stories are really traditional, consumer based stories and I think they fall flat. Maybe it is because of my personal bias, but I just don’t think they work. Later, as the stories move from Christmas and start to deal with life during the holidays when gifts are not the central focus, the stories get better.
There are a lot of assumptions in this book as well. If a reader does not read ever single DC book, there would be a lot of supporting cast members who are question marks. Reading a book without the Who’s Who in the DC Rebirth Universe does not really work here. Of course, in the modern world, that book is really Google. Still. I can see some people losing interest because of the obscurity. Holiday specials are about the heavy hitters. There are some Double A players in this book. Krypto the Superdog and a talking detective monkey? Really?
I get it. I do. I don’t have to like it personally to understand why it was made and to whom it appeals. It is nice to see Paul Dini do some work with Harley and it is nice to see Jessica Cruz get a win.