Comic books are fun and Christmas is fun. What is really fun are Christmas comics and specials. It’s been a tradition that DC will release a Christmas special as well as maybe a Batman issue about Christmas.
Last years offering, that was released as a graphic novel this year, was titled A Very DC Rebirth Holiday special. The graphic novel offers the original Rebirth holiday special, Harley Quinn #10 (2016) and Batman Annual #1 (2016). Each of them comes with various amounts of short stories featuring different characters and team-ups that are kind of surprising.
With Rebirth finally coming to a close, and this Christmas special being a rather good sample of what Rebirth was, I thought it’d be fun to go through the issues presented in the graphic novel and give a brief summary and thought on the individual stories included.
Now, this is a VERY long list since I wanted to give time to every short story, so to make it easier, you can scroll through the titles of the collected issues and their individual chapters to see which catch your fancy. I’ll also add my final thoughts on the whole thing at the end. Enjoy!
DC Rebirth Holiday Special
This collection is framed in the context of Harley Quinn holding an old-fashioned TV special with all of the DC heroes and villains taking a part in the festivities. Various short skits preface each story, usually making fun of various Christmas traditions like the obligatory Christmas cartoon, celebrities pretending to be friends with each other, and secret Santa. These segments are all out fun and contrast the short stories really well.
The Last Minute (Superman)
Superman and Batman need to acquire the season’s hottest toy for their kids. Superman ends up searching everywhere in the US to find the toy but finds they are sold out everywhere, only to lose the last toy to none other than Damian Wayne, Batman’s son.
The Layout is well done and succeeds in making the pages visually interesting. Sometimes the dialogue is lacking, feeling a little like they placed a speech bubble where they should have put a thought bubble, but the characterization is on point, presenting a Superman and Batman that really feel like they are old friends. A sentiment that, unfortunately, has been getting lost in comics lately.
For the Dog Who Has Everything (Superboy)
In this story, Jonathan Kent (Superboy and Superman’s son) notes that Krypto the super dog had a “Stressful year”, subtly expressing his own concern over his powers and newfound origins. Superman then takes him on a tour of the Fortress of Solitude to share the importance of their heritage and family ties.
The layout was by Dan Jurgens and it shows. It’s very reminiscent of the Superman comics of the 90s. the story is also only 2 pages so there’s a lot of content that gets squished into them with 9 panels on each page (one more than the recommended 8). However, the unspoken interactions between Jonathan and his parents show a glimpse of why Superman: Rebirth has been a good chapter for the character and his relatives.
The Night We Saved Christmas (starring Batman and Detective Chimp)
This one is treated like an old-school detective mystery, though there really isn’t much of a mystery to solve and the story treats itself less seriously than that. Bobo the detective chimp has been commissioned by a mysterious man named “Noel” to find his dog. The man who took the dog lives in Gotham City, and Bobo calls on Bruce Wayne to help solve the case.
What this story lacks in sophistication it more than makes up for in personality.
Dreaming of a White Christmas (Constantine and Wonder Woman)
John Constantine has been cursed with the same reoccurring nightmares for several nights now. We find him looking through a witch convention to find a particular witch with the spells necessary to remove the curse. Along the way, he runs into Wonder Woman who is looking for the god Dyonysis, who is shirking his duties at his post in Olympus.
It’s a fun team up combo and the two characters play off each other rather well, though Constantine is definitely the main character of interest in the story. It also plays up the world building since the supernatural is not an area that comics are typically associated with. Very well done and one of my favorites from this collection.
A Flash Christmas Carol (The Flash)
As you could probably imagine, this story is about The Flash. Barry recounts a Christmas where he and The Rouges opted to have a temporary truce through the holidays so the kids in foster care in Central City can receive the presents that were raised for them through charities.
The Flash does a good job, particularly recently, of keeping a positive and happy atmosphere, and it shows in this Christmas special. The art is the highlight of this issue, with sharp lines and angles portraying a sense of speed, though the slow moments do relax sufficiently through trickery with empty backgrounds and simple design choices, keeping things non-busy.
Day of Returning (New Super-Man and the Justice League of China)
New Super-Man of China and his Justice League friends are fighting a plant-based villain bent on returning Hong Kong back to its natural roots (not unlike Poison Ivy). This story is mostly focused on the Chinese holiday of Dongzhi (winter solstice) which, as you could probably guess, is the day of returning.
Since New Super-Man is still a relatively new book at the time this story came out, and its definitely not the main draw of it, this one-page story gives a good sample of what the book is supposed to be like.
Light in the Dark (Batwoman)
Batwoman is looking to follow up on a Hanukkah tradition from her parents where she will eat cherry pie and remember the story of the Maccabees. Things get interrupted though when an informant spy at an evil corporation tries to pull in her help to release information about some illegal operations under some shell companies. An EMP goes off and ruins her night.
The art in this book is spectacular. It’s clean, it has just the right amount of detail, and all through the book are subtle hints of bat and cat imagery. It’s a pretty good introduction to the character as well.
What a year for a New Year/ I Don’t Wanna Be Late (Teen Titans/ Nightwing/ Batgirl)
The Teen Titans chase after some speeding car thieves while Arsenal learns to confide his feelings with his team on New Year’s Eve. The story wraps up with Nightwing racing to meet Batgirl for their New Years date.
This is the first story in the book that directly references the larger plot of DC Rebirth (of course, wrapping up this year with Doomsday Clock). Unfortunately, that means you need an idea of the story so far in order to fully appreciate this installment. A positive to this though is that for those who have followed the story, you’ll be rewarded with some casual thoughts about the changes to the timeline and people’s worry about it.
The Epiphany (Green Lanterns)
Jessica Cruz, the newest Green Lantern to be stationed to Earth, and her partner Simon Baz are taken away from their Three Kings Day celebration to check on an unknown alien disturbance. The aliens, three dressed in traditional wise-men attire, set three tests in front of the lanterns.
This is another instance where a relatively new character is somewhat unknown still, but this time with familiar elements.
That completes the “DC Rebirth Holiday Special” segment of the story. Overall, it’s a fun summary of the state of DC comics at the time. If you can’t find the individual issue, the graphic novel trade version of the book is on sale now and pretty cheap too off Amazon or through order with your local comic book seller.
Batman Annual #1
Again, this is a collection of short stories, this time from dedicated Batman writers and exclusively about the Dark Knight.
This is the origin story of Ace the Bathound. In the story, Batman finds and was attacked by a bunch of beat and mean dogs dressed in similar fashion to the Royal Flush gang (a reoccurring gag of The Joker to dress henchmen under card-based alias’s). All of the dogs but ace are killed in a dogfight and ace is taken to the pound. Batman argues that some wounds can’t be healed while Alfred insists on spending three months training Ace and taming him.
Aside from a few funny lines from Batman solving various crimes, this story doesn’t really do much out of the ordinary for a comic. Mostly, I feel it’s here to introduce Ace into the new Batman mythos. Krypto the Superdog is a part of the Superman family by this time and Ace never really seems to be far away.
Batman has developed a new piece of technology that sends GPS coordinates to him directly whenever a specific 911 call is made in Gotham. It’s been keeping him busy and that’s when he gets a call to go to the central square to stop a potential terrorist attack. When he arrives, he is treated to a bunch of flash-mob acrobats performing wild stunts for the people. This stops all 911 calls in Gotham momentarily, giving Batman what Alfred called a “moment of grace”.
This story was made by Scott Snyder, who is arguably DC’s most prolific writer at this time. Whenever he writes a book, he finds a way to make new ideas feel like they’ve been there forever and while this story isn’t earth-shattering, it does give a perfect glimpse into Batman and his character. He’s not completely brooding, he has a genuine care for the city and its people, and he even finds a way to enjoy the brief moment of peace and stability. Batman in all of his complex colors appears in this story and I give it a thumbs up.
The Not So Silent Night of the Harley Quinn
This story is built by the powerhouses of Paul Dini (Batman The Animated Series, Batman: Arkham City) and Neil Adams (Green Arrow/ Green Lantern. Pretty much invented the bronze age of comics). Harley Quinn plans to break into the GCPD and start to make amends for her past wrong-doing. Also she may have a bomb to place in Joker’s cell. Batman picks her up and drives her off to the edge of town. Since it’s such a long distance, Batman opts to finish his patrol since Harley has proven recently to be no threat. Along the way, Batman finds plenty of crimes but they are all prevented by people inspired by Harley Quinn. Batman drops Harley off at her hideout rather than the city limits and goes home.
It’s a solid story and a solid idea that works really well for its page limit. Neil Adams art, though perfect for a more serious book, doesn’t compliment the almost campy script from Paul Dini though, and this clashing takes me away from the events and makes me almost have to consider everything in its individual parts rather than a coherent whole. Like I said though. Solid story. Solid art. Just not together.
Bruce’s friend, Barry O’Neil, has pledged his entire fortune to making Gotham a better place. After a brief assassination attempt that was foiled by Batman, both O’Neil and Wayne go home for the night. Batman appreciates O’Neil’s work and the next page shows the death of O’Neil at the hands of another assassin.
This story is the darkest of the bunch so far. There seems to be no happy ending and it definitely was meant to set up a bigger story arc. In a book full of standalone stories like Annuals traditionally are, this doesn’t really fit. I feel like it was just included because it took place on Christmas.
The Insecurity Division
Arkham Asylum is having its new attempt at a holiday party for its inmates. One inmate, The Haunter, has managed to escape and is headed to meet with Scarecrow. Meanwhile, Batman is busy disabling drones spreading a light fear toxin across Gotham.
Do you like old-fashioned stories? Yes? Well, this is one for you. I get a real post-crisis vibe from this story (the mid-80s). The art feels old-fashioned and surprisingly detailed while the story is the same amount of grit that I remember seeing in Batman’s adventures from that time.
Harley Quinn #10
The third issue included in this collected volume. Unlike the others, this one is just a single story rather than a compilation of short ones.
Harley learns that Santa isn’t well and has been admitted to a hospital in critical care. Hoping that her history in the medical field will be of some help, she rushes over to the hospital as fast as she can. It turns out that Santa has a crippling depression that has rendered him unconscious. The one-shot cure that they have found is to shrink a volunteer down past the atomic level and insert them into Santa’s subconscious to battle his inner demons. The trip is one-way and, of course, Harley volunteers.
The manifestation of Santa’s inner demon takes the form of The Joker and then chases Harley Quinn all through Santa’s subconscious, past a pit of dead Rudolph clones to a beach full of bikini models. It ends with Harley saving Santa, getting ejected from his brain, and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy new year.
There’s a reason that Harley Quinn and Deadpool are paired so much by fans and this is a good reason. The story is cartoony in nature but allows lots of wanton violence like some kind of crazy matured up Loonie Toons cartoon. The art is cartoony, fast-paced, and pays tribute well to the character of Harley and you can see the use of animation principles like “squash and stretch” used liberally to give an air of insanity to it. Below all the tongue- in- cheek lies a deeper character struggle of Harley trying to get over her long-standing relationship that she previously had with the Joker, having him and her other Justice League friends manifest as the demons she needs to fight.
Wow. That’s a lot of words. Good for you for getting through it all.
So this book is exactly what you’d imagine it would be. It’s a bunch of short stories built to show off the kinds of things happening at DC over the past year. You’ll also notice that the book was very Harley Quinn centric and I believe that’s due to her sudden rise in popularity due to her appearance in Arkham City, Injustice, and film appearances. While I am a fan of Harley to an extent, I wouldn’t say her stories or appearances were the highlight of the book.
If I were to pick the top 5 things to read in this book, I would pick Dreaming of a White Christmas for its unique nature, Last Minute for it’s lighthearted cheer (plus, Superman looking all over America to find a present for his son is one of the most fun situations I would want to see the character in), Silent Night for its straightforward interpretation of Batman and a Flash Christmas Carol for its themes.
I’d recommend the book for Holiday reading for people maybe 13 years and up. If you aren’t sick of seeing Harley Quinn in everything yet, this is a fun and engaging read that covers all the holidays of the season in a positive and sometimes quirky light. You can find the book on Amazon or through order at your local comic retailer.