Review: DC Nuclear Winter Special #1

[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]

Writers: Mark Russell, Collin Kelley & Jackson Lanzing, Steve Orlando, Jeff Loveness, Tom Taylor, Mairghread Scott, Paul Dini, Phil Hester, Cecil Castellucci, Dave Wielgosz

Artists: Mike Norton, Christian Duce, Dexter Soy, Jerry Ordway, Amancay Nahuelpan, Scott Kolins

Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Brad Walker, Phil Hester

Breakdowns: Tom Derenick

Inks: Cam Smith, Drew Hennessy, Ande Parks

Line Art: Yasmine Putri

Colors: Hi-Fi, Romulo Fajardo Jr., Nathan Fairbairn, Luis Guerrero, Yasmine Putri, Veronica Gandini, Dave McCaig, Trish Mulvihill, Brian Buccellato, John Kalisz

Letters: Deron Bennett, Clayton Cowles, Tom Napolitano, Steve Wands, Dave Sharpe, Josh Reed

 

Summary

A collection of winter and holiday-themed stories featuring characters from around the DCU… if they were living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland!  Buckle up and enjoy!

Positives

This is a monster collection, so I will go one by one and then give my overall thoughts at the end.

The first story is “Batman 666 in Warmth,” and its a great story to lead off with.  Batman 666 is the very definition of post-apocalyptic, so it really set the stage as to what to expect moving forward.  The writing was excellent, and there is both a distinct Damien and Batman feel to this story, and I can’t help but feel joy at seeing Damien act this way as Batman.  Despite selling his soul to the devil, Damien is true to himself and the values he learned from Bruce in this story and is even able to smile in the darkest of times after getting stabbed by his own grandfather.  The art team also did a great job here.  The world we see is gloomy and covered in snow, Batman appears youthful, but still calculating and prepared, and Ra’s is as grotesque as he should be in a world like this.

That Steve Orlando really is a sneaky one.  Despite saying “Superman One Million in ‘Memory Hearth,'” this is, in fact, a Martian Manhunter story.  I have praised Orlando time and time again for his world building capabilities, but his characterization and storytelling abilities are on full display here.  Even though it was only a few pages, I got goosebumps while reading it because of how much it made me feel for a character who has always considered himself to be alone.  If his upcoming Martian Manhunter maxi-series portrays the level of emotion, heart, and understanding of Martian Manhunter that this story does, it will truly be a classic Martian Manhunter story.  For Martians, memories and emotions are everything because they can share them and use them to connect with each other in ways humans can’t imagine.  By creating this holiday, and the concept of arcas as these vessels of memory and feeling is perfect.  The word comes from boxes of money and valuables used in ancient times, or a container for the bread of the Eucharist.  This fits perfectly because for Martians, memories and emotions represent their entire soul and being.  They contain immense value.  Few writers have ever been able to portray the Martian ability to literally feel what someone else is feeling, and Orlando was able to do so extremely well.   Kal contributed to the emotion as well.  He respected the traditions and values of someone different than himself like few characters ever do.  He helped a friend and mentor in a time of loneliness, and valued J’onn in a way few do.  Orlando clearly shows his knowledge and respect for the character and I can’t wait for Martian Manhunter #1 next week.  The art team on this story also did a very good job of making the One Million universe come to life.

Jeff Loveness really delivers a great Flash story with “Once and Future.” The picture he paints is truly tragic, and yet Flash is able to move forward despite being lost and alone.  For years he is only able to view the world he once lived in.  Comic readers are presented with a lot of tragedy, and few writers are able to spin it in a positive direction.  It’s really not a story at all, but rather a series of reflections from Barry and a love letter to the character from Loveness.  It makes me want to see Loveness take over The Flash just for the raw heart I know he’d bring to the character.  Finally, I know I keep saying this, but once again the art team is phenomenal.  Each of the three so far has had a unique style of art that has fit the characters being written perfectly.

“Where the Light Cannot Reach” is an interesting look at Aquaman in a post-apocalyptic world, but after the recent character defining stories by Abnett as well as “Drowned Earth,” I do not have much else to say.  It is interesting to see how nuclear war would impact Atlantis.

I must say, Tom Taylor is doing some really well thought out alternate universe stories right now.  First Injustice Annual #2 and now the delightful “Last Daughter” short in this special.  The play on the last son of Krypton story is done very well and you can really feel the love Kara has for a daughter that was not even her own, but rather a child she found.  I really appreciate the intended message of this story.  Also Putri’s art is by far the best of this special.  I hope Putri continues to do interiors or move to full-length stories because every panel looked amazing and the design for elder Kara is spectacular.

“Last Christmas” was an interesting story.  The Nuclear Family and Firestorm are both characters that aren’t used very well, and I feel that Dini told a solid story featuring both of them.

“Nine Lives” was another stand out for me.  A great portrayal of Catwoman in the mentor and leader role, which is a role we rarely see her in.  I love Holly Robinson and this story was a great way to add to the Catwoman mythos while also portraying a great lesson about singular kind deeds and how one person can change lives and make a difference.

Oliver makes a great Scrooge in “Birds of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.”  While the story plays off of a familiar trope, I appreciate how it was told and the art.

The entire collection is framed within a narrative of Rip Hunter telling goons in a post-apocalyptic world these stories to buy time.  While a bit thin, it is a clever framework and showcases the rest of the stories well.  I thought the stories were also compiled in a well thought out and balanced order.

Negatives

Sometimes its hard to appreciate the short-story format like this because there can be a lack of detail or substance.  Loveness’s Flash story was not really a story at all, but rather a series of reflections.  On one hand, this may be the only way a comic such as that could be written, but on the other hand, it was a little frustrating to read because of a lack of movement.  I also think the stories in the middle really bogged the collection down.  The Aquaman story didn’t feel like Aquaman at all and really had nothing to say.  I also saw very little purpose in the Firestorm story as well.   The Kamandi story also did not fit at all with any of the other stories, and usually a collection like this should ave some flow. Finally, while I thought Tom Taylor’s message was great, his characterization of Kara was not.  You really could not hear her voice at all and I couldn’t even tell it was her for awhile.

 

Verdict

Overall, it is a solid collection of mostly great stories written by a great selection of writers and drawn by a great selection of artists.  It gets bogged down a bit in the middle, but I would recommend it overall.

 

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Ari Bard

I am currently a Sophomore at Case Western Reserve University studying mechanical engineering. I have been in love with DC since I saw the animated series and movies in the early 2000s. I started reading comics regularly at the start of Rebirth. My favorite character is Martian Manhunter.