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Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Infinite Holiday Special

Infinite Christmas Holiday Special #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 13, 2006

Cover date: February 2007

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

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1Title - 1: I don't know if it was a cowardly editorial decision in fear of reprisal from a diverse public, or a conscious choice in an effort to be inclusive, but in all ways, changing the title from the Infinite Christmas Special to the Infinite HOLIDAY Special is wrong.

Is it because I'm a Christian, angry at the war on Christmas? NO. There is no war on Christmas, and I'm an atheist.

Is it because I resent inclusive choices in literature? NO. I'm pleased as punch that the new Batwoman is a lesbian (and not for the reason you're thinking, bucko), that the DCU is making an effort to be more reflective of the real world, and that it's not affecting the stories.

NO. It's because honestly, the pun was awesome, and anyone with common sense would have seen it for that. Christmas sounds like Crisis, so that's a good joke. Holiday sounds like...clay? WHAT? Bah humbug!

It's not an endorsement of Christmas if it's a pun. Reverse it. Imagine the DCU fought an enemy called the Hak'rah for whatever reason, and there were a ton of them, and in homage to the Infinite Crisis in fifteen years they had an Infinite Hak'rah.

Then, a year later at this time of year, they do the Infinite Hannukah Special, because it's a reflective pun off the events of the year.

Would people go, "Sweet bippy Jesus! They're endorsing Judaism!"?

No, just as here they wouldn't have said, "Infinite Christmas? BOYCOTT DC!"

(Even we bitter atheists determined to destroy the world with secular humanism and ecumenical politics.)

Nah, they would have said, "Hey, funny pun." like I did.

So come on, DC, be ballsy. You're better than that. Especially if you're gonna release a Christmas special kids are gonna pick up with one of the characters saying "Eat me" and a young woman having her throat slit for a gag. Oh, and when all but one of the stories are basically Christmas stories.

How about, if you want to be diverse, doing a Hanukkah special too? Or put Kwanzaa in here?

Point being, there's nothing to go ape about in having fun with Christmas, a holiday that most Americans celebrate. The only thing that really, seriously ticks people off is when government endorses religion (and for a good reason). Private companies doing a Christmas special is not only apt, it's kind of expected, and no one's accusing DC of not being diverse.

4Cover Art - 4: Pretty darned good, colorful and fun. Superman's a bit gawkish, and you're wondering why they even bothered to number it if it's a one-off, but still, a great image, symbolically representative of all of the characters involved.

1Title Page - 1: I've mentioned this before... I don't understand why they waste a page in these specials listing all of the credits if they're just going to put them in the stories, too. It's wasteful, and it's what could have been more story time.

Sounds like I'm really bagging on this thing before we've even started huh? Sorry about that, I just go in order.

Green Lantern in "A Hector Hammond Christmas"
Writer: Keith Champagne
Pencils: John Byrne
Inks: Keith Champagne

Hal Jordan goes to see Hector Hammond, who has been begging to see him. Hammond explains that he's seen Hal's father from beyond the grave somehow, and asks Hal to trade some warmth for his information. Hal gives Hector his warm memory of his father, and in return, Hammond tries to corrupt Hal, giving him images of his failures.

Hal breaks free, taking Hammond down and returning to the skies, fondly remembering his father.

5Story - 5: Neat little story, and it was inspiring enough to make me finally go look up Hector Hammond and his history. Intriguing villain, and a good, if light, character piece for Hal Jordan.

4Art - 4: Byrne is usually slipping for me of late in everything he does, and here it's an exception. Neat work on Hammond, some dynamic paneling, and the splash is really, really well done.

There are still some sparse panels (I HATE talking head pages with no background, unless really arty or adding to the scene (Invincible has done this well).

Shadowpact in "Christmas Spirits"
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Cory Walker

Blue Devil finds Santa Claus drunk in a bar, lamenting that Christmas in trouble. In response, Devil gathers the Shadowpact.

Santa indicates that the ACL, the Anti-Christmas League, are determined to put a stop to Christmas and his organization. He calls them terrorists. The Shadowpact agrees to stop them.

The ACL aims a rocket launcher at Santa as he flies through the sky, calling each other comrade.

The Shadowpact arrives, neutralizing a large army of ACL goons.

Cut back to Santa, and before the attack on the ACL. Blue Devil reveals that there IS no ACL, and that it's just a practical joke someone plays on Santa. The fight scene was in Santa's imagination.

Meanwhile, Blitzen and Detective Chimp call Santa and harass him.

5Story - 5: Actually, I was so incredibly prepared to 1 this mother. It hacked me off to no end, because I read it quickly. At first, I thought it was a story of a REAL ACL that was attacking Santa that they foil, and that for some reason Shadowpact was really behind it. That's why we read it twice for reviews, kiddies.

It sounded like they were saying there was this group called the ACL out there (ACLU, anyone, obviousmuch?) that called each other comrade and shot rocket launchers at Santa. In other words, painting the ACLU as commies who want to kill the patriarch of a Christian holiday, etc. I thought I was watching Fox News there for a minute...

Then I read it closely and realized it was poking fun at all of the people who, with good intentions (like Santa) think there's some giant conspiracy of communista terrorists to destroy Christmas. People who go nutty when they change Infinite Christmas to Infinite HOLIDAYS because they think it means that DC hates Jesus or whatever. Nuts. The REAL humbugs who want to sour the season, not people who rationally desire that the state not sanction a given religion by paying for a religious iconography but have no problem with hearing Merry Christmas and seeing religious displays in stores unless clinically retarded.

One little twist changes something from a patently foolish artistic statement to genius satire...and I'm glad I read it closer, because this is a great story.

I don't read Shadowpact, but I might start now.

5Art - 5: Expressive and distinctive. I like the way that the ACL looks like Invincible (second mention in this review, I know, but I SWEAR Kirkman isn't kicking back to me, I just noticed it. In fact, would someone please kick back to me? HAH! Ho ho ho.)

I chortled mightily at Blitzen and the chimp making crank calls. You can't go wrong with monkeys.

Supergirl in "All I Want For Christmas"
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Ale Garza

Clark shows Supergirl his tradition of answering mail on Christmas and tries to explain the tradition to her. She begins reading the mail.

She finds a little girl who is missing her father, and decides to find him. He's a drunk, lonely, miserable, alone, and denies the responsibility of being a father because he was trapped into marrying the mother by her skipping a pill.

In response, Supergirl flies him into the stratosphere, drops him, scares him out of his wits and tells him to reevaluate his life.

Soon after, he reunites with his family, despite a sour looking mother.

1Story - 1: This story doesn't do much to convince me that Joe Kelly is the man for Supergirl. I know he's beloved of fans, but honestly, I haven't been that impressed with what he's done. People keep saying give him a chance, and I keep giving him a chance, and I keep getting disappointed.

Here, we have the Superman letter reading storyline, which we haven't seen in a good while, so we're all jazzed up to see it again. And hey, even better, he's passing the tradition along to Supergirl. Good!

Isn't Supergirl not talking to Clark, though? Well, they have discrepancies between books, it happens, you know...wait! Joe Kelly is writing Supergirl too, isn't he? Oh yeah. He is. Sarcasm.

But that's not my beef. My beef is that the conflict and the villain in this story is unsympathetic.

I'm a feminist, as many on this site lament to me in letters. I explore and demand that we explore through critique male and female relations as they change in a new millennium. Or at least, I'm a man who believes in the equality of the sexes. I believe each sex should take equal responsibilities for the decisions that they make.

In our society, which is not feminist, an underlying assumption is that men are responsible to take care of a kid if women decide to get pregnant and have a kid with a given man despite his strenuous objection. This is not equality.

Equality is if a man has half a decision of whether to have a kid or not once the woman is pregnant. Both decide to have a child, equal decision. Pregnancy occurs, the woman has ten times the number of birth controls a man has (and the man's is fallible), and the woman has one hundred percent of the choice as to whether to have that baby or abort. The man is not allowed to make that decision (to have the child) in any way. He may persuade, but he cannot choose. This is not equality. And though many would presume to say abortion is NOT an option, it is, though it may be distasteful, so the woman DOES make the decision to either be religious and object to abortion, or have an abortion. No one forces people to be overly Christian in matters of childbirth.

The point of this is that when a woman decides to have a baby that a man does not want, it's not his responsibility to take care of it in my opinion, it's that woman's, so when a conflict in a story hinges on what a fink a man is for not taking care of a baby that he asserted he wanted no part in, and that a woman who forgot her birth control chose to have, I feel no sympathy for the kid (the intention), I feel anger at the mother for screwing up a kid's life by making a poor decision. And is she dropped from the mesosphere for her idiocy?

Bear in mind that if this guy is a drunk and a layabout, who chose to sleep with him? The mother. But she bears no responsibility (and certainly not equal responsibility) because in this society, we are not feminist, and we are not equal. We give women a pass, which might SEEM on the surface beneficial to women in retribution for centuries of oppression, but in fact promotes a habitual, institutional learned helplessness that is baseline the REAL reason there is a wage gap.

So while I can be glad in the end that a father and child are reunited, the dad's still a bum, the mom's still not a chastised idiot as she deserves to be who had a child under irredeemable circumstances, and hey, let's just put icing on the cake by making Supergirl, who wears the S, not a bat-symbol, threatened someone with death and almost killed them in order to make a point.

Critical failure.

5Art - 5: The art, however, is very good. Supergirl is beautiful, the kid is lovable, I believe in the dad, and Clark is very on-character. Great work.

Trials of Shazam in "Gift of the Magi"
Writer: Tony Bedard
Pencils: Marcos Marz
Inks: Luciana Del Negro

Reviewer's note: Forgive me, I'm not reading Trials of Shazam, so I may butcher this.

In a bar, the new anthropomorphic embodiments of Solomon's Wisdom and Achilles' courage meet to speak of Freddie Freeman after Wisdom drops a coin on a beggar.

Concurrently, a group of baddies including embodiments of what appears to be the negative Shazam virtues meets for a sacrifice. The sacrifice hangs himself, so they find another, a bum who they clean up, the bum from the intro.

Wisom and Courage speak of Freddie, and wonder if he's worthy of Shazam.

As they prepare the bum for slaughter, they find the coin Wisdom tossed, which teleports the bum to where Wisdom and Courage are. They treat him to Christmas dinner.

1Story - 1: I'm confused and agitated by this story from the onset by a lack of familiarity with the characters. But that's not what makes it bad. I can, with rough online exploration and common sense, intuit what's going on here.

What plagues this story is a lot of what hurt the Supergirl story. Unsympathetic heroes, in that they seem relatively too cool for school, if you will, and subdued despite knowing that across town a group of villains are sacrificing people. Knowing the bum was endangered necessitates that they knew about the ceremony, which puts the blood of the kid that hangs himself and the girl they sacrifice (a bit gratuitously) on the hands of the Wisdom and Courage, right? Maybe I missed something.

Also, if it's a Shazam story, where's Captain Marvel? I know there's a change-up in terms of the general cast, and from what I've heard I like it, but I don't particularly get or enjoy the idea of the incarnations of the powers bantering with each other, or what point that serves in terms of essential conflict or plot that is necessitated.

4Art - 4: Generally I'm a sucker for painted work, and this is no exception. I knocked a point because there's a general perspective error on the sign and the faces look pinched and off in a few places, but still great work.

The Flash in "Father Christmas"
Writer: Ian Boothby
Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncolli
Inks: Lorenzo Ruggiero

Bart struggles with going to see his family for Christmas, and decides against it, given the losses he's suffered recently.

Pondering this, he's hit with a snowball from an errant kid, and finds the powers of the Weather Wizard coming at him. Flash stops the assault, and finds a guy who worked on the weapons for the villains experimenting, lamenting that he's a poor father with a kid he can't take care of properly.

Flash offers them a place to stay for Christmas, and realizes that family can redeem itself despite suffering, and ends up spending the holidays with his family.

5Story - 5: Great, spunky little story. I think this is what the Supergirl story was trying to be. There are a few internal coincidences that are a bit too simplistic, like the weather experimentation happening just where Bart is, but the overall point made forgives that, and makes it enjoyable nonetheless, unlike an unsympathetic villain from Kelly. THIS is a family dilemma you feel for, a guy who was trying to make a good life for his son and got waylaid into helping villains, without perpetuating any villainy purposefully himself.

There is one thing that drives me nuts in the story. The Insaniac thing. Firstly, because I love the idea, it's utterly incredible, and I've never seen it in action.

AND, if you look, it references that it's the Titans fighting Insaniac, including Conner, but he's DRESSED IN THE SUPERMAN OUTFIT.

Which mean's he's...Superboy? Traditional, Silver Age Superboy?

Hey, you know, let's convolute continuity a little more, huh?

Someone explain this, please?

Batwoman in "Lights"
Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Christian Alamy

Kathy Kane talks with her step-mom about the past, and why her mother doesn't light her menorah. It caused a fire, previously, and reminds her of her family, turned to ash by the Nazis.

Kathy visits her father, giving him a first edition copy of "The Big Sleep" by Raymond Chandler.

Batwoman appears at a warehouse, smashing about goons dressed in Santa outfits. She finds a menorah like her father's, unique, and through it finds a missing relative of her step-mother. She reunites them for Christmas, and finally gets her to light the menorah again.

5Story - 5: Awesome story, but the best part is the execution. The overmonologue in the end makes me envious, it's really, really well done, and the story itself is very strong for the number of pages given. Great work, great way to tell a Hanukah story without making it look or feel or be token in any way. You really believe these characters, struggling with strong personal stories, particularly in the bitterness of a lifetime of ancestors turned to ash.

Incredible stuff.

4Art - 4: I'm a bit confused as to why Batwoman is popping batarangs INTO people's skulls through the foreheads, because they look like they're in a place where people wouldn't be living, let alone talking, so I'm guessing that was either an artist or writing error, or heck, maybe it was intentional, but it doesn't sit well with me. Nonetheless, it doesn't impact the story, it's not the point.

There's also the fact that, due to either rough editing or my own dirty mind, the panel where she bursts in on the villains can be critically misconstrued. The obvious line of dialogue is this:

Goon 1: "Ahhh!"

Batwoman: "Ho,"

Goon 2: "It's him, it's the bat--"

Goon 2: UKK! (hit in head)

Batwoman: "Ho,"

Goon 2: "--shoot, somebody shoot--"

Batwoman: "Ho."

Now, if you're like me, subconsciously you read every dynamic panel (as this one is) up and down in case there's a hidden or double meaning. Bendis uses this a lot to great effect, and I plan on exploiting it if I can ever find an artist who will finish a constant book with me.

But anyway, point being, if you're a chucklehead like me, you can then easily and are likely to read the following:

Goon 1: "Ahhh! It's him! It's the bat--"

Batwoman: "Ho."

And that made me laugh, anyway. But I'm a loon. I think this might be the artist's fault in the way it's paneled, but maybe not. Either way, I'm mentioning it here because I know how meticulously Rucka plots.

Superman in "Yes, Tyrone, There is A Santa Claus"
Writer: Kelley Puckett
Art: Pete Woods

In an "Adventures of Superman" style story, we see Lois Lane as a picked on dame and Clark and Jimmy as shlocky, surface style humorists (not in that bad way, in that George Reeves wink to the camera way) facing the dilemma of a child who does not believe in Santa Claus.

Superman, of course, tries to fix this by popping on a S for Santa, a red suit, and bringing toys to the kids.

Batman arrives with a jetpack and tries to stop him, telling him there are bigger problems (to which Superman pays grudging lip service to maybe doing something in the Middle East). Superman agrees, and leaves, but not before deciding to at least drop off the presents.

Arriving, he finds that Bat-Santa has taken his glory, and they erupt into a fistfight. They then show the Elseworlds logo.

5Story - 5: HILARIOUS. Incredible, wonderful, magical realism absurdist good times. This is my sense of humor, this is metafiction at its best, and I just...I'm still giggling. They even throw in the Elseworlds to say, "Shut up, fanboy, we know we're being absurdist and this isn't real."

You don't see Superman punching Batman for being a jerk, that's why this is funny, because Lois Lane ain't a dame no more and Superman casually ignored the Middle East because he already brought Hitler to Geneva but WW2 still happened.

VERY well written, and hands-down my favorite piece in the bunch.

5Art - 5: Why is Pete Woods not on Superman regularly? WHY?

I tell you, if anyone deserves it, it's him. He's VERY good with these characters, and his level of detail and insight is phenomenal.

5Back Page - 5: Really neat to see a bunch of the DC people that through this site I've come to meet, banter with, regard, explore, and analyze in a giant montage celebrating the holidays. It's like a hidden picture.

He says that the people behind him are creative editors. I'm guessing the horse is the one responsible for Superman's continuity, but otherwise, this special closes out a BANNER year for DC and comics in general. The momentum is fading, I'll admit, but these guys deserve a pat on the back for the countdown, the Crisis, 52, and just generally for re-invigorating this whole universe, even if some risks ended in failure.

4Overall - 4: Some of the stories sucked, but most were great, and the art was fun, and it's a ton of pages for the price.

Other than the Supergirl story and the title change, however, nothing's totally abysmal, and it's ALL in the spirit of holiday goodwill. Worth a good read.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2007

February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007

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