Hey everyone! ICE to see you! The holidays are here, and who better to spread some holiday cheer than everyone’s favorite Batman News Authors, Cam and Matina (with a little guest appearance from Jay, of course)?
Well, don’t tell Nick we said anything, but no one! That’s why we’ve teamed up to skate through what’s personally my favorite holiday anthology this year. I’m super excited to dash through this book, but even more excited to finally get the chance to chill out and work with my absolutely magnificent colleagues! So, with the icebreakers out of the way, let’s jump in before I get cold feet.
Robin & Mr. Freeze in “Window Shopping” (Jay)
Give me a new story set in the Batman: The Animated Series universe and you have my attention.
Have it star Robin and Mr. Freeze and set it around Christmastime and you have my interest.
Tell me that Alan Burnett and Paul Dini wrote it, with art and letters from Jordan Gibson, Monica Kubina, and Josh Reed? Friend, you have my heart.
And we get all of that and more in “Window Shopping”, a delightful little short that starts this anthology off on a high note.
A sort of spiritual sequel to “White Christmas” from the amazing The Batman Adventures Holiday Special #1, “Window Shopping” sees Tim Drake on the hunt for the perfect gift for Bruce Wayne, until Mr. Freeze attacks with a huge ice ray to block off the city street. Naturally, Robin springs to action, but in true BTAS fashion, there’s more to this story than just fisticuffs and the apprehending of villains.
As you’d expect from a story in this continuity– and from these creators in particular– there’s a lot of heart here. “White Christmas” had Freeze lash out to preserve his dear wife’s favorite traditions, and “Window Shopping” sees him do the same for his own broken childhood. Even with his (literally) icy exterior, the heart of a man still beats within Victor Fries’ chest, and in the end Robin gives him perhaps the greatest gift of all: empathy.
It’s sweet and genuinely touching, with some nice nods to the series that so many of us hold so dear. More than that, it’s not just a story set around Christmas, but one that captures the true meaning of the season: showing love and grace to your fellow man.
Vixen & the Super Pets in “The Syphoning” (Cam)
The first story in this anthology that feels like it’s trying to make up for what happened to all my top picks in DC’s Round Robin (I will die mad about this), Vixen & the Super Pets is a charming story about self care. No, really. That’s what happens.
The Super Pets are in the clutches of the Penguin, who’s using a super powered pet of his own: Waddles, the Psychic Penguin! When Anansi interrupts Vixen’s vacation from the Justice League, it’ll be up to her and Ace the Bat-Hound to save the Pets, and stop the Penguin from stealing their powers for himself!
Between this and Harley Quinn: The Eat Bang Kill Tour!, Tee Franklin is quickly establishing herself as one of my favorite writers working right now. She has a wonderful knack for writing wholesome moments that tie in seamlessly to the overall plot. Yancey Labat and Tony Aviña’s art just adds to the good vibes, as all of the Super Pets, Waddles included, are absolutely adorable.
I gotta say, I’m loving the love the Super Pets are getting over at DC. Now make my Christmas and release a 4K remaster of Krypto the Superdog.
Bizarro in “Bizarro v. Seasonal Depression: Dawn of Climate Change” (Cam)
I was going to try and write a whole section of this review in Bizarro-speak, but, uh…
Let’s just not say me am best at brain not getting very understanding before me am not write for short time
Now that that’s out of the way, I can talk about what was probably the oddest story in here.
Never in a million years did I think I’d read a story where Bizarro both struggles with depression and combats climate change, and never in TWO million did I think I’d like it so much.
Not Amedeo Turturro and Not Jason Howard (as they’re listed in the credits) were a great fit for this segment. Both of them work in tandem to create the perfectly barely coherent vibe of htraE, all while still telling a fantastic story. Letterer Not Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou is clearly having a blast with the lettering here too, and it shows.
Bonus points for cracking the Snyder joke.
Firestorm & Killer Frost in “Stay Frosty” (Matina)
Written by Jeff Trammell this story features Firestorm and Killer Frost on Justice League monitor duty on Christmas Eve of all nights. The conflict revolves around Firestorm’s suspicions that Killer Frost is still a villain, despite the fact that she’s joined the Justice League. Well, specifically Ronnie’s half of Firestorm. He’s got a valid enough reason for his suspicion since she did attack his family at one point and ignores Jason’s advice that perhaps Killer Frost has really turned over a new leaf.
Justin Mason’s art paired with Allen Passalaqua’s colors fit the story very well. The pallet is balanced well between red and blue, playing on the conflict of fire vs ice going on. Mason’s character expressions are ranged and expressive, which is great since the settings are rather empty until the end and it’s really the character interactions we’re here for anyway.
The resolution to the story plays out in a rather positive way –this is a holiday tale after all– and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, the various misadventures, conflicts, and eventual resolution are quite a bit of fun with some laughs and genuine emotion filling the panels. It’s story of second chances is a light and wonderful read that feels just right for the season.
Polar Boy in “Snow Date” (Cam)
As the world’s reigning (and only) fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes, let me tell you I was ECSTATIC to see this in the lineup. I absolutely was not disappointed.
“Snow Date”, written by Rich Bernatovech, is an absolutely adorable story about a first date in the 31st century. Polar Boy and his new flame (heh) Comet Queen are out and about, checking out PB’s newest display of various holiday-themed ice sculptures, all with the same reverence that all New Earth denizens have for 21st century culture. Before they can continue their little chill (heh) session, however, the sculptures spring to life! Christmas chaos ensues, resulting in possibly the most kick-ass first date in recent (or far-off?) history.
Pair this with some wonderful art by the triple threat of Travis Mercer, Norm Rapmund, and Andrew Dalhouse, with letters by Dave Sharpe, and you’ve got an incredibly solid story that I would honestly love to see more of someday.
Hey DC, since you’ve kinda left the Legion hanging for a while now, maybe give these folks a shot?
Harley Quinn & Blue Snowman in “A Change of Heart” (Matina)
Tara Roberts writes Harley in in A Change of Heart. As with many stories featuring Harley it’s quite chaotic, but also fun. The story revolves around Harley’s quest to help Ivy who’s been struck by a mysterious illness plaguing Gotham days before Christmas. In a series of misadventures Harley first recruits The Blue Snowman and then Hawkman in her quest to save Ivy.
It has a pretty fast pace and in my opinion feels a little cluttered. You’ve got this mysterious illness, Blue Snowman freezing everything, a magic staff being stolen by multiple people–it’s just got a little too much going on for a story that’s ten pages long. Especially when it’s trying to create new friendships, and convincingly change Blue Snowman’s mind about Christmas on top of all the action.
Eric Battle is the artist, with Eva de la Cruz as on colors here and they do an admirable job keeping up with the chaos of the story. Battle creates a number of unique and fun panels on pages that help amplify the story’s energy. Still, the fights can feel a little unclear here and there simply because of just how much is going on.
Generally, while this story is fun, it’s a little too busy to really be my favorite in the bunch. Still, if you’re looking for a wild holiday adventure it’s a good one to check out.
Flash & Captain Cold in “Christmas: Cold and Fast” (Cam)
I came in to this anthology expecting for this story to be my favorite. Unfortunately, this one reads a little too much like Bobby Moynihan was semi-aware of the relationship between The Flash and Captain Cold, and decided that meant he could write a whole short story about it.
The plot, wherein Barry Allen enlists Snart’s help to give the people of Central City a Merry Christmas, is a fantastic idea. It’s cute, charming, and has some real potential for Holiday Hijinks, but there’s a lot of problems, particularly with the dialogue. Barry sounds hollow most of the time, like an exaggerated imitation of how a superhero should sound, but then will heel turn right into directly insulting Snart, which I guess is supposed to represent his quippy side? Snart isn’t handled great, either. He, again, sounds like a middle aged man’s idea of a supervillain, making terrible puns while twirling his mustache at all the EEEEVIIIIILLLLL he’s doing, but will out of nowhere say something like “but I just want these kids to have a good Christmas, darn it.” (not a direct quote). Again, the whole thing really feelss like Moynihan was aware of the Snart/Allen dynamic, but doesn’t really understand it. Nevertheless, the plot is cute, and the pacing is decent, so the story isn’t a total wash.
The art is solid in this segment as well, with Pop Mhan and Ivan Plascencia lending their talents to a whimsical, vibrant Central City. I’m a big fan in particular of the way that Barry is drawn here, actually. It’s the first time since its addition that I haven’t really minded the chin strap
JLQ in “Break the Ice” (Matina)
In this closing story Andrew Wheeler gives readers a tale of new life and discovering yourself as the JLQ’s mixer is interrupted by Minister Blizzard, a cartoonish snow villain channeling the power of a young woman with powerful ice abilities. During the fight it’s up to the JLQ to stop him, save the day, and inject some hope into the lives of those around them.
The issue is gorgeously illustrated by Meghan Hetrick and colored by Marissa Louise. And while there’s a fight here, the visuals are really all about the lush green scenery of the rainforest, the beautiful blues of the blizzard brought in during the fight, and the sparks of green as Sylvan works to both discover his own inner healer and help the struggling young woman fooled by Minister Blizzard.
Syl’s personal journey, and his efforts to help Sigrid are the heart of this story. It’s really encouraging to see him not only working through is own struggles, but to listen to and empower Sigrid herself in the process. It’s that kind of story you can read and then go and apply to your own life, whether you’ve been hurt or are feeling lost or just need to know that not every situation is going to always feel as hard as it is now.
This is just the kind of story I love to see from a holiday anthology. It’s full of hope and encouragement. When you step away you’re feeling better than you did going in. And in my mind that’s just the kind of feeling to go out on at the end of this whole anthology.
DC’s holiday collections have been super solid this year, and they’re consistently some of my favorite books to cover, an experience that’s made even better when I get to do it with friends! I hope you all have some special people around you as we head into this holiday season. Times are changing, a new year is on its way, and every year I’m reminded of how important it is to spend some time with people you hold near and dear.
And if you don’t have those, at least you’ve got comics, right?
For real, though, we’re getting close to my one year anniversary with Batman News, and I just wanted to say thanks. Not just to the review team (though I owe them a great deal of appreciation), but to you guys as well. I’ve seen a lot of love and support from you all, and I look forward to earning it in the years to come. Assuming I don’t get fired. Or Nick doesn’t kill me for that bit at the beginning (love you buddy!)
Happy Holidays to those who celebrate! I love you all.
- You’re looking for last-minute holiday gifts for the comic fan in your life (including yourself)
- Some genuinely sweet holiday stories are just your jam
- You’re looking for something different from mainline books, something refreshing.
This anthology is incredibly solid. There’s a wacky, fun cast of characters with a wide variety of engaging, entertaining stories. Everyone’s sure to find something they like here.
Overall Score: 8/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.