DC aren't kidding when they call this one a 'holiday' special. Usually these giants are full of Christmas cheer, with perhaps the odd nod to Hanukkah. Not the 2010 edition, which arrives with an attractive, but two-weeks-late, Thanksgiving Day cover by Matt Haley. Every one of the six stories centres on a different holiday, with some made up for the occasion. Let's take a look at the rites and wrongs.
- First up is DC's Cro-Magnon teenager Anthro, in a story involving the Neanderthal winter solstice's False Hunt. He and his father dissuade little brother Lart from coming along, leaving him to mind the women - honestly, these guys are cavemen - but Lart plays his part in saving the day when cannibals appear (we're told Lart has some 'condition', but not what that is). With Anthro inventing sledging, gift-giving and snowmen, this is a cute piece from writer Joey Cavalieri, flexing his writing muscles after years as a DC editor. Carlo Soriana, illustrating right down to the colours, turns in a beautiful job.
- Jonah Hex stars in a tale for Hanukkah as a rabbi is murdered by twin bandits and his son helps the bad luck bounty hunter bring them in. There's a little bit of magic in this engaging short written by Seth J Albano and drawn by Renato Arlem. Bruno Hang's colours are perfect for the Old West, too. And if the name Albano sounds familiar, that'd be because Seth is the son of Jonah creator John Albano. Or maybe grandson ... the story is dedicated to Johns Sr and Jr, and I thought there was but one! (Aha, Seth clarifies the relationships in the comments below - thanks Seth!)
- Less enjoyable is the short featuring Green Lantern John Stewart, which is pure preaching. A strange-seeming ritual on a far-off world leads him to flash back to his time in the military in Baghdad, where a soldier colleague flashes back further to his days in the Philippines. This story is brought to you by the holidays Ashura and Easter. The minister is Tony Bedard, while the church is decorated by Richard and Tanya Horie, who show that as well as being mean colourists, they know how to design a page. One or two of the panels are a little awkward, but overall this is decent work, reminiscent of the pencil and ink jobs of the great Gil Kane.
- Superman appears in 'Hero of Heroes', in which a brave little boy is given the Daily Planet's Hero Award where everyone expected a superhero, firefighter, military or police person to pick it up. I think we're meant to be surprised, but if this is the first time DC Earth has seen such an event, it's rather lacking in compassion. Of course such kids should be lauded, but I'd rather it were in a Silver Age-style public service house ad than a six-page story. Anyway, bless the hearts of writer Kevin Grevioux and artists Roberto Castro and Scott Koblish for this Thanksgiving Day 'treat'.
- It's the Vernal Equinox in Iran and the Spectre is having fun learning about Persian New Year traditions. He's also learning that crime never takes a holiday. Two crooks learn to swim, and as they've been turned into goldfish they're going to be relearning the skill every 30 seconds or so. This is interesting from an anthropological point of view, but a rather depressing holiday gift from writer Dara Naraghi and artists Tom Derenick and Norm Rapmund.
- And finally, longtime Legion of Super-Heroes fans will remember the festival of Klordny. Well, forget it, as the United Planets have amalgamated all cultural, ethnic and seasonal festivals throughout the universe into the occasion of Holiday. And rather cheerless it seems too, especially for the Legionnaires assigned to work Holiday weekend who are constantly attending false alarms. The reason, though, is pretty clever as Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning return to write a Legion tale for the first time in years. Chris Batista and Rich Perrotta - the art team on the criminally underrated Booster Gold - present crisp, attractive art.
So six stories, ranging from the awful to the enjoyable, with Anthro and Jonah Hex being the standouts. As specials go, this is a decent time-passer, but something's missing. DC are to be commended for trying to be more inclusive, not focussing on Judeo-Christian occasions, but they've gone too far in the other direction. Give me bucketloads of snow, give me sentiment, make me sad then happy (actually, a few more points to the Spectre story for throwing in a few orphans and crutches, and Anthro for being set in snowy wastes). It's December, I don't want to be thinking about Macy's parade, or Easter, or whatever they celebrate on Hathor.