Monday, December 19, 2016

Book Review: Jingle Belle - The Whole Package

Jingle Belle - The Whole Package
Paul Dini, et al., 2016

Premise: Santa’s got a daughter, and she’s been a rebellious teenager for longer than most humans live.

Apparently Paul Dini has been writing short comic adventures starring Jingle Belle, Santa’s spoiled teenage daughter, off and on since 1999. This thick volume collects nearly all of them: 28 short pieces according to the credits pages.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by some of the early stories - despite being very slapstick on the surface, Jingle’s mix of anger, mischief, caring and defiance often felt like a fairly honest representation of a teenage girl.

Jingle’s been a teenager for a long time, too. Her mother is queen of the elves and her father is Santa, so she’s been “sixteen” for many years. She doesn’t have patience for holiday sappiness, and she’s usually lazy, thoughtless and out for herself. She’s eternally frustrated that no one in the world at large knows about her. When she does try to be “good,” it often backfires.

The supporting cast that comes and goes includes rivals and friends, including magical animals, elves of various types, and other magically inclined teenage girls.

The art styles vary wildly through the book, as at a quick glance almost twenty different artists worked on these twenty-eight stories. The writing varies as well: sometimes it’s funny and satirical, sometimes full of adventure and heart, sometimes… sometimes it’s boring.

Same thing with the art, really. I was prepared going in for cheesecake in these designs, and I was generally able to look past it. Unfortunately, there were a few stories that even when I knew it was part of the joke (there’s one where JB tries to make money by replacing street-corner Santas with women in skimpy outfits), I found it unpleasant to read.

Overall there were more hits than misses, though. Highlights include a story where Jingle convinces the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to fill in for a department store Santa and one late in the book where she finds Frankenstein’s monster frozen in the Arctic and bring him back to the North Pole. The story with Krampus is really solid, and some of the frenemy-rivalry between Jingle and Tashi the (anthropomorphic) snow leopard is fun.

This volume is a bit much for a casual reader (it took me a long time to get through it), although the short story format means you can read it off and on. However, the lack of page numbers on the contents page makes it hard to find any specific story.

3 Stars - A Good Book

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