"I tell ya, I should never've made Batman the door greeter."
--Vixen (The superhero, not the reindeer).
The misleading #1 on the cover actually marks this as a "one-shot," which is equally misleading because DC comics has been doing holiday specials intermittently for decades. The 2008 offering features some excellent art, a few passable stories, and a lot of filler.
A "Season’s Greetings" poster opens the book with the Superman family on Christmas. The illustration emphasizes an ongoing problem with the current Supergirl's wardrobe, which will be discussed at the end of this review. However, she's not the only one making a fashion faux pas. Krypto wears those stupid reindeer antlers. Man, that's one compliant super-dog.
"The Man in Red" explores the origins of a certain colourful character who has a Fortress of Solitude at the Pole. It's a moderately interesting reflection on why someone with extraordinary gifts might feel drawn to a life of service.
"Somewhere Beyond the Sea" features (speaking of fashion faux pas) Aquaman in a story which parallels the Nativity story—except this one involves a presumably colorblind superhero and a Kraken.Those who stay clear of stories involving DC's Sea King, I suspect, won't find anything in this rather silly tale to change their opinion.
"Good King Wenceslas" provides illustrated lyrics to the celebrated carol.
"A Day Without Sirens" offers the strongest story in this collection. It echoes DC's most famous Christmas tale, "The Silent Night of the Batman"
(Batman #219, 1970), but takes an entirely different approach. Someone has posted flyers asking that all crime in Gotham City stop for one day. Commissioner Gordon and Gotham Central react with shock when it appears to occur. The final twist raises some problematic questions, but in a collection of mediocre stories, this one stands out.
"I's a Wonderful Night" is a trite "holiday in the life" tale involving Nightwing, Robin, and, erm, Captain Boomerang.
"Christmas with the Beetles" tells a comparatively clever tale spanning the careers of all three Blue Beetles, as they come up against three generations of a family that has trouble walking the straight and narrow. It captures the heroes' different personalities and style, and offers hope that even the most pathetic can change their lives.
"An Angel Told Me" sees the lines between the Huntress's two identities blur as she attempts to help a troubled young man. It's preachy, but, like many of these stories, recalls a time when superheroes regularly came up against ordinary people with genuine difficulties. Comics need a few more of these stories.
"The Night Before Christmas" gives us another "holiday in the life," this one involving the Teen Titans and an interesting blend of artistic techniques.
"The Party Animal" depicts the hijinks which ensue when Green Lantern and Red Arrow capture the Shaggy Man en route the JLA Christmas party, and decide to take him along, rather than bring him into custody and miss their annual shindig. Of the numerous "holiday in a life" offerings in this special, this works the best. It also gives us a glimpse of the Justice League's Secret Santa gift exchange. What does one buy Batman for the holidays?
"Let There Be Light" features Dr. Light (the heroic, female version), stunning artwork, and a predictable story.
The final "Happy Holidays" poster shows the world viewed from the Justice League satellite.
That's the collection. Supergirl doesn't cut as impressive a figure here as she did in '07's Infinite Holiday Special, but she appears twice, once in a key role. Her appearances raise an ongoing problem with the current treatment of Supergirl.
She's an interesting take on the character. She belongs in the DCU. But when they reintroduced her, North American teen fashion featured stripper-like outfits as the norm: belly tops that exposed at least as much flesh as parents would permit, waistlines cut so that waxing was essential, and thongs or bottoms displayed to the world. It wasn't just your local überskank or attention whore who dressed that way-- or girls going to the beach on a hot day (where such clothing makes perfect sense)-- but many an average girl dressed that way, exposing and freezing her ass off in midwinter. So comic books, never afraid to dress super-females like table-dancers, naturally gave Supergirl the look.
Flash forward to the present. That look has largely disappeared, at least as everyday wear. Supergirl's fashion sense holds, and so does her age, at about fifteen. Every time Kara Zor-El shows up in a comic, DC artists are required to illustrate the upper mons pubis of a minor. The results are frequently a little creepy. The very first page of the Holiday Special show the Maid of Might arriving at the Kent homestead for Christmas, in her little outfit, with the addition of Kriss Kringle accouterments. Artist Karl Kerschl has given Clark "Superman" Kent a smirk that intends, I suspect, to imply, heh, there's my little cousin dressed as Santa Claus, but that as rendered suggests something else, something relatively inappropriate for an adult male greeting his teenage cousin. Ma Kent, meanwhile, looks overjoyed. The image does not get this superhero holiday comic off to the most appropriate start.
Then again, it's not the best superhero holiday comic. While DC Universe Holiday Special contains some shining moments, I can recommend it only to the most hardcore fans.