Written by Paul Dini, Steve Orlando,
Phil Hester, Mark Russell,
Mairghread Scott, and others
Illustrated by Cully Hamner, Phil Hester,
Giuseppe Camuncoli, Yasmine Putri,
Yanick Paquette, and others
Published by DC Comics
It’s time to get our Yuletide apocalypse on as DC Nuclear Winter Special reminds readers the holidays can be tough, especially inside of a bleak wasteland.
Eighty pages containing ten tales for the cost of a Hamilton bears a weight that ultimately not even the world’s greatest heroes can hold up. The overall narrative is tied together by a particular time master who tells stories to delay his consumption at the hands of the dumbest cannibals in the history of anthropophagy. It’s the story within a story concept that serves one master with a weak connective thread sharing one abstract commonality.
Spirit of the holiday season.
Tall tales involving Catwoman, Kamandi and others range from utterly predictable to outright boring.
Other yarns, such as Warmth by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing is a double-edged sword. Depending on your familiarity with Batman 666, one blade is blunt while the other edge is sharp but disjointed upon further inspection. Damien and Ra’s Al Ghul end their battle by cozying up to a warm fire. Why? Because it’s Christmas. That’s why. Great character work and fun backdrops of a snow-covered dystopian Gotham City drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli is this chapter’s strength.
Memory Hearth with Superman One Million tries to get going but fails to find it’s launching point. The artwork is a rote exhibition of unflattering character work that fails to convey any heart. Once and Future is a sad story that brings up an interesting question regarding The Flash. Forever, trapped in the Speed Force, Flash watches life move on without him while he tries to keep a cool head. The depressing nature of it all is the goal here. However, it wasn’t a worthwhile reading experience because the ending didn’t make me feel any better about Flash’s predicament.
It’s not all bad though. There are three prizes to give out at this county fair of mushroom cloud despair.
The yellow ribbon goes to Dave Wielgosz and Scott Kolins for The Birds of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.
Vibrant artwork serves as a visual delight to this tale of introspection. Green Arrow’s Ebenezer Scrooge is the turd floating in the punch bowl at the Justice League’s Christmas party. Hawkman is essentially Jacob Marley, teaching old man Arrow that things these days are different; not notably better or worse than the good old days. The subtle humor of it all anchors everything this story brings to the table.
Paul Dini and Jerry Ordway get the red ribbon for Last Christmas. Fun and detailed illustrations coupled with an exciting story put Firestorm in a moral quandary with The Nuclear Family. The familial androids are almost out of power and want one last Christmas before they expire. Should Firestorm grant them one more holiday, or should he pull the plug on these evil bots?
Thanks to Titans, airing DC Universe streaming service, The Nuclear Family has received a jolt of pop culture rejuvenation. This raised the appreciation factor of the story considering the easy answer is, let them rot. After all, they are not living beings. Things in comic books, however, are never that simple. Plus, seeing Firestorm held captive as he is tied up in a string of Christmas lights by NF-1 is a sight of comic goodness.
Finally, the first-place blue ribbon goes to Tom Taylor and Yasmine Putri for their fantastic work on Last Daughters. Exquisite art and dramatic storytelling shows Supergirl as she traverses a barren wasteland, deprived of sunlight, to protect her daughter. Interior depictions work in perfect harmony with the narrative as every ounce of Kara’s struggle is felt with each turn of the page. Warm moments between mother and daughter help pass the time as Earth is on the brink of collapse. There is a callback to Supergirl’s origin story that presents the House of El with an option to rewrite history. The journey is as beautiful as it is worrisome, making their trek something extraordinary. The only bad thing about this outing is that it’s only eight pages. I wanted eighty pages of this; however, in this case, less is more.
DC Comic’s prestige format rolled out a Halloween special in October that served as an entertaining read at best.
Besides the Supergirl story mentioned above, nothing about this book says prestige. While more contemporary tellings of our heroes could have turned the tide of this offering in a different direction, the time travel element gave the creators more to play with here. The unintentional meta humor by the cannibals regarding the lack of interesting storytelling will make many wonder why they pressed pause on dinner time. It’s one of those creative moments that asks the reader to just go with it, however, a stronger connective thread could have made the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Twenty-four quality pages, with eight of them being gorgeous, is not worth the price of admission on this ride.