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2000AD Holiday Specials

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This year, I bought a handful of 2000AD Christmas specials. This is a long-running comics magazine from Britain, and it's the origin of Judge Dredd.

It's an interesting format that's quite different from the way most Western comics are published today. Longer stories are serialized in small pieces, but short one-offs are featured as well. Because each issue features many short stories and chapters (and there are more than normal in these holiday annuals), you're bound to find something intriguing even if one or two of the pieces aren't to your taste.

Most of the stories seem to share a sense of heightened reality: dystopias, sci-fi blending with other genres, crime and punishment in very stylized worlds.

Each issue was 100-ish pages and featured over a dozen stories, of which only some were seasonal. Here are a few of the more Christmassy stories in the issues I read:


2007 Special

Sinister Dexter: Christmas Time

Sinister Dexter is a long-running series about a pair …

DC Holiday Special 2017

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I picked up DC Comics' Holiday Special this year, but it's kind of a rip-off. Unlike the pleasant surprise of last year, most of the tales in this one feel cramped and one-note.

The 90ish-page special opens and closes with a frame story of Clark Kent and Constantine in a bar, arguing with "Bibbo" Bibbowski over whether Superman (or anyone) is really making a difference in the world. Bibbo's an optimist and reassures Clark with a bunch of stories. Not that the stories which follow make any sense in that context.

Most of the stories are just too short to have any impact. I was thinking that I would have rather they had cut one or two and let the others be longer. However, it's not actually that they're all short on space; some of them just aren't paced well for the space they have.

Worst of the bunch: 

There's a weird, surreal, fatalistic Swamp Thing piece that doesn't end with much. Something called Atomic Knights wasn't so terrible in itse…

Holiday Comic: DC Rebirth Holiday Special #1 (2016)

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Huh. This was much better than I expected. Not quite solid enough for me to go back to being a firm fan of DC, but enough to get me cautiously hopeful that some of their comics might not suck right now.

This thick prestige issue consists of ten shorts and an interstitial framing device: Harley Quinn throwing a star-studded holiday special. The frame story is mostly funny and cute, completely surreal and not even bothering to pretend to be in continuity with anything.

The best stories, in my opinion, are “The Last Minute” and “The Night We Saved Christmas.” The first has a lot of the superfamily stuff that I adore that was missing from the DCU for a while. It has Superman and Batman being friends, Superman (I like this Superman! Yay!) shopping for a last-minute gift, and Damien Wayne and the new Superboy (Jon Kent) being adorkable.

The second is a Detective Chimp adventure with Batman as a supporting player. It’s funny, snarky, and thoroughly enjoyable.

There’re two one-page pieces: …

Book Review: Jingle Belle - The Whole Package

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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…

Holiday Comic: Gwenpool Holiday Special: Merry Mix-up

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Last year’s special was fun, so I was excited when I heard there would be a sequel.

I was more excited when I opened to the table of contents and saw a story by Ryan North called “I Saw Spidey Kissing Galactus, The Bringer of Gifts.” That gives you a little taste of what you’re in for.

The book opens with the beginning of Gwenpool’s story. (Gwenpool, in case you aren’t up on your Marvel trivia, is Gwen Poole, a comic fangirl from a “real” world who is stranded in the Marvel Universe. She is basically unbeatable because she understands the fictional nature of the world.)

Gwen is getting ready to celebrate Christmas with her teammates, but they seem to be preparing for a very different holiday. One where Galactus brings presents to good children and you express your caring for others by giving and wearing hot pants. She quickly determines that something is screwy and heads off to the North Pole to get to the bottom of it.

Then you’re treated to three short stories set in this alternate …

Comic Review: NorthStars Volume 1: Welcome to Snowville

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NorthStars Volume 1: Welcome to Snowville
Jim Shelley, Haigen Shelley, Anna Liisa Jones, 2016

Premise: Santa’s daughter and the princess of the yetis go on an afternoon adventure to save Christmas.

This sweet comic book from Action Lab Comics is a digital-first release this year, planned to be a gift-ready hardcover next year.

The story isn’t anything more than it appears to be, but it’s a cute, well-done tale. The art is clean and bright and the writing is clever. Some of the little details and tweaks on holiday lore were things I’d never seen before and quite liked.

Holly Claus meets Frostina under parental pressure, but they hit it off immediately. During a quick tour of Santa’s workshop, they run into a goblin who reports (in crayon-drawing speech bubbles representing a language barrier) that Krampus is interfering with the goblins who prepare the Christmas coal.

The girls travel under Snowville to investigate, facing harvest-themed straw men and a snow dragon on the way. The adven…

Holiday Comics: Gwenpool Special #1, My Little Pony Holiday Special 2015

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Have you visited your friendly local comic shop this week? You might want to make the trip, some super-fun holiday specials just came out!

Gwenpool Special #1
Writers: Charles Soule, Margaret Stohl, Gerry Dugan, Christopher Hastings
Art: Langdon Foss, Juan Gedeon, Danilo S. Beyruth, Gurihiru

I know, I know, Gwenpool? Just go with it and trust me on this one. This hefty issue tells four interlocking stories featuring some of the recent stars of the Marvel U.

The overarching tale follows She-Hulk, as she throws the biggest party of the year to defeat some evil magic. Meanwhile, Ms. Marvel takes out her frustrations with the ubiquity of Christmas on an evil Santa. Hawkeye and Hawkeye team up with Deadpool to catch a holiday pickpocket as a favor to one of Clint’s friends. Gwenpool goes up against a giant sword-snake-thing and enjoys her visit to the main Marvel Universe.

Drunk monkeys! YouTube sword tutorials! Holiday gifts! It’s repeatedly hilarious and occasionally sweet. You may have …

Graphic Novel Review: Batman: Noel

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For a dark avenger, there are a surprising number of famous Batman Christmas stories, including well regarded episodes from severalanimatedseries, a holiday movie, and even a video game. There have been quite a few Christmas comic issues, as well, over the years, but you wouldn't expect anything else from a character who's been around for seventy-five years with multiple titles a large portion of that time.

One of the more iconic Batman holiday stories in his original medium is Batman: Noel, a graphic novel from 2011 that attempts to adapt A Christmas Carol using the Dark Knight as a stand-in for Scrooge and supporting characters in other roles.

This was written and illustrated by Lee Bermejo, who's best known as an artist. After reading Noel, I'm a little torn on whether I think he should have stuck with that. On one hand, there are some great ideas in this story and some clever twists. But there are also a huge number of missed opportunities, poor choices, and a gen…