No matter which holiday you celebrate… Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, or just plain ol’ Festivus (for the rest of us), it’s that time of year again. And the house of ideas at Marvel Comics has put out another oversized holiday issue. The holiday special features four tales featuring Spider-Man, Wolverine and the X-Men, Nick Fury, and The Thing. Each tale focuses on what that hero is doing over their chosen holiday. Sure… they’re all one-shot stories that have nothing to do with Marvel continuity but they’re holiday stories, so they’re still just a bit of fun. However, as with any anthology, there are some better than others, so let’s take them story by story.
‘Cold Hearted Christmas’
The first tale features Spider-Man. It’s Christmas day and the web-slinger is just minding his business when he runs across the villainess Coldheart. Coldheart is carrying a bag of cash, so naturally Spidey attacks and attempts to bring her in. In a stroke of luck, Coldheart gets away and Spidey is hot on her trail. However, once Spidey catches up to the villain, things are not as they seem and the hero tries to make things as right as he can under the circumstances.
This one isn’t the best of the lot Marvel gives us this issue, but it’s not exactly the worst either. It’s just a fun Christmas aside that is fun while you’re reading it but I’m sure you’ll forget once it’s done.
‘Logan’s Lost Lesson’
This tale, featuring Wolverine and the X-Men, is the same story that was offered for free a few weeks ago through ComiXology. It follows Wolverine and Kitty Pryde as they attempt to teach the X-Men recruits from ‘Wolverine and the X-Men’ some teamwork. Logan’s strategy is to have the recruits play a good ol’ fashioned game of Canadian hockey. Naturally, things don’t go exactly as Logan planned… or do they? The story is fun to read and we get to see a bit of humor and tenderness not often seen from Wolverine.
This one is my second favorite of the four tales this issue. The art is great and writer Kurtis Wiebe crams a lot of characterization into the scant few pages that it takes to skim this story.
‘Ol’ Saint Nick’
This tale, featuring Nick Fury, is the best of the bunch for this Holiday issue. The narration is done in a very verbose style that is reminiscent of some of the old Stan Lee comics of my youth. And Nick Fury’s dialog (both inner and outer) is full of some great fun stuff that makes this story of one of the world’s most curmudgeonly badasses a blast to read. The tale takes place as Fury is tracking down a Hydra agent called “Scar” who is supposedly one of the rising stars of the criminal organization. Fury parachutes into the Hydra base and begins kicking but on his way to Scar and holiday fun ensues.
The artwork is a bit cartoony and reminded me a lot of the animated ‘Venture Brothers’ but it’s a perfect fit for the tongue-in-cheek vibe of the tale. When Fury finally completes his mission, you’ll have laughed a bit, cried a bit, and definitely be in the holiday spirit.
‘Chinese Food for Christmas’
The final tale, featuring the Thing, is so similar to the opening Spider-Man tale that it’s almost not worth adding. The Thing is trying to get to an interfaith holiday party with some fellow superheroes when he has a run in with a “monster” who is stealing holiday decorations at random throughout New York. The Thing gives the monster a merry chase before tracking him to Yancy Street where, as with the Spidey story, things are not exactly what they seem.
This Thing story and the Spidey tale are the weakest of the bunch, simply because they’re so forgettable. It’s not to say they’re bad, especially since the Thing is written with some spot-on lovable characterization in the story. But, it’s just… okay.
Overall, the ‘Holiday Special’ does exactly what it does every year. It gives Marvel fans a chance to see their favorite heroes (and some villains) in some holiday stories. As such, most of the tales are rather light-hearted and fun as they should be. But this year, the authors do manage to toss in a little holiday melancholy that may make readers think about those less fortunate than themselves. It’s a Christmas book, so take it for what it is. Read it, enjoy it, and maybe give it away to someone who would enjoy a little bit of comic fun this season.
MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2011
Written and Illustrated by VARIOUS