Looking for a little Christmas Cheer at the comic store? As you might guess by my annual Christmas Covers feature I tend to buy Christmas-themed comics, even if it's a title I don't normally get. Here's a rundown of some of this year's holiday-themed comics to consider:
Marvel & DC both have their annual holiday specials. The Marvel Holiday Special 2006 is the more successful of the two, with the wonderful"How Fin Fang Foom Saved Christmas" by Scott Gray & Roger Langridge; and a framing sequence by Andrew Farago, Shaenon K. Garrity & Ron Lim set at an A.I.M. office holiday party. Mike Carey's attempt at a holiday-themed alphabet book starring The Thing has some clever rhymes but isn't much of a story, though Mike Perkins turns in some good art.
The DCU Infinite Holiday Special was solicited as the DCU Infinite Christmas Special, but apparently some bah-humbug pc editorial shenanigans got in the way of a wonderful pun. It's mostly by-the-numbers stories, though Joe Kelly & Ale Garza's Supergirl story works pretty good, and the concluding Elseworlds Superman & Batman story by Kelley Puckett & Pete Woods is a lot of fun.
Also from DC is Justice League Unlimited #28, with The Phantom Stranger playing the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past for The Flash, though he shows Wally not his own past, but Batman's!
Marvel counters with Wolverine #49, a fill-in that's been pretty accurately described as Die Hard with Wolverine. Unfortunately Logan does not wear the Santa outfit you see on him on the cover, but instead his rather silly yellow-and-black threads.
Blade #4 by Marc Guggenheim & Howard Chaykin finds Blade facing off against a demon that possesses a department store Santa and others. Chaykin really hits his stride in this issue that plays to his strengths. And the Punisher: X-Mas Special 2006 by Stuart Moore & CP Smith is an appropriately moody story that features Frank Castle spending the holidays crossing off minor mobsters from his Naughty List.
Steve Edmond's Emo Boy #10 has the title character moping about how he can't understand why people are celebrating Christmas while there's so much suffering in the world. Fortunately Santa shows up to set him straight; I won't spoil it by telling you how, though you might get a clue from the cover...
Dork Tower #35 interrupts the comic's ongoing storyline for a second issue in a row to give us John Kovalic's take on "The Gift of the Magi," with a twist on the twist ending.
Flare Adventures #18 features a Chrissie Claus story that finds Santa's granddaughter and her friends in skimpy clothing fighting a bunch of evil elves or somesuch. Even inks by Dick Giordano don't help it out much.
Having never read an issue of Jim Balent's Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose before I was expecting the holiday-themed issue #41 to live up to the comic's reputation as featuring outrageously proportioned women and plenty of misogyny. Quite a surprise then to see that it instead was a rather fun-loving story about the titular witch and her friends celebrating the Yule festival with a snowball fight and tobogganing. Of course a couples of pixie show up and use magic to strip everyone of their clothes, providing plenty of gratuitous nudity (although it doesn't seem fair that all the women show the full monty while the one male's manhood always seems to be discreetly covered).
Every year some of the Archie Comics offer up Christmas themed stories--this year it's Archie #571, Betty & Veronica #222, and Betty & Veronica Spectacular #76--and every year I'm reminded why (with the notable exception of Sabrina) I don't bother with Archie the other 11 months of the year. It's pretty much the same stories told over and over: middle-class Betty is jealous of her friend, the spoiled rich Veronica, and both have an inexplicable thing for bland Archie Andrews. If you want a lot of the same old same old, there's also Archie's Holiday Fun Digest #11. At least the Betty & Veronica Spectacular has art that feels a bit more lively than standard-issue Archie. (Johanna also reviews this year's Archie Christmas comics on her blog.)
For Duck and Mouse fans there's plenty of holiday cheer from Gemstone's Walt Disney line: Walt's Disney's Christmas Parade #4 features the classic "Christmas in Duckburg" by Bob Gregory & Carl Barks, with plenty more Christmas- and winter-themed stories to round out its pages. Walt Disney's Comics #675 and Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge #360 are both about 50% winter-themed in content. For those who want a smaller dose there's the Christmas-filled Mickey Mouse and Friends #295 & Donald Duck and Friends #346; the latter has a minor Carl Barks story, while the former includes the rather fun "The Quest for Quasar" by Stefan Petrucha & Noel Van Horn.
Due out this week, though obviously not read yet, are Fables #56, which promises to give the lowdown on Santa Claus; 52 week 33, the Christmas week issue with Batwoman on the cover; and The Bakers Meet Jingle Belle one-shot from Paul Dini & Kyle Baker.