christmas comics calvalcade: dc universe holiday bash III

Today we’re going to look at DC Universe Holiday Bash III, published by DC Comics in 1999.

I’m going to break down the individual stories behind the cut.

World’s Finest Christmas

The lead story is a Superman/Batman team up… which sounds like it would be wildly fun, but suffers from a realistic take on the characters.

Karl Kesel and Dave Taylor do their best with the modern Superman/Batman relationship here in a tale designed to dovetail with their yearlong World’s Finest maxi-series. The two heroes battle a life sized Captain Adventure action figure, clearly designed as a homage to the classic Caption Action toys from the 1960’s. Superman and Batman save the day and have some patter about their respective approaches to fighting crime and injustice.

It’s a well-told tale. Taylor is a really good artist, although Klaus Janson isn’t an ideal inker for his usually clean work. Kesel does a nice job with the characterizations and honestly, any problems I have with this first story can be chalked up to it not fitting my personal preference as to how I see the characters. Someone in the mid 1980’s (Frank Miller, I guess) decided that Superman and Batman were too different from one another to have anything other than a grudging alliance rather than a friendship.

Although that makes sense from a realistic perspective, it’s sort of lame. Your mileage would most certainly vary.

The Joker’s Twelve Days of Christmas

Short and sweet, a two page riff on the classic Christmas carol from triple Holiday Bash contributor Chuck Dixon. Joe Stanton pencils, but Bill Sienkiewicz‘ inks really carry the day on this one.

Heathen Ways

Cedric Nocon and Eric Luke contribute a Wonder Woman story that hits familiar beats to the Wonder Woman story in Christmas with the Superheroes. WW is an outsider to our culture’s holiday traditions, but she is more willing to learn than Artemis.

If I’m remembering correctly, Artemis was the “tough as nails” replacement Wonder Woman from the early 1990’s. She was grim, she was gritty, and she had no problem hacking people’s heads off.

The art isn’t that great, even by 1990’s standards. I think the artist is hampered by having to draw so many characters in normal, civilian clothing.

Alone for the Holidays

My favorite of the bunch- a short Chuck Dixon penned/Gordon Purcell drawn story featuring the Tim Drake version of Robin at Christmastime. Dixon had a hell of a run on most of the Bat-titles in the 1990’s, but by far my favorite work of the writer was his time on Robin. Dixon wrote the Boy Wonder for 100 issues before moving on and in that time, managed to make readers invest in the character in a way that hadn’t been done before. It’s a quality run.

This story also seems to harken toward Dixon’s other books in the Bat Family, Birds of Prey and Nightwing. Good stuff.

Home for the Holidays

A holiday tale focusing on The Slab, the high-tech prison where all the villains of the DC Universe are kept locked away. It’s a decent story with a bittersweet ending, helped quite considerably by the artwork from Damion Scott. Scott’s not very active in American comics right now, but he had a nice run on DC’s Batgirl series in the early 2000’s. His pencils have a kinetic energy to them which translates well to action sequences.

An Eye for Detail

The third and final Chuck Dixon story in the bunch, this time the writer moves away from superheroics and focuses on the Wild West… specifically on the dandy cowboy Bat Lash. In actuality, the Bat Lash in this short story looks nothing like the clean-cut, refined character I remember him being the last time I encountered the character.

That can be forgiven however, thanks to the be-yoo-ti-ful artwork from Quique Alcatena, an Argentinian comic book artist whose work I have never encountered before this story. Alcatena has a clean style and there’s good storytelling on these pages. The story he has to work with is a bit slight, but it’s cute and short.

No Bart, There Is No Santa Claus

A story featuring Impulse, the nineties answer to Kid Flash, racing around the world as a de facto Saint Nick. The story is written by Mark Waid and Devin Grayson, with art from Craig Rosseau. Rosseau is aping the art style of original Impulse artist Humberto Ramos with gusto, and I’ve always enjoyed the character’s overexaggerated, wordless thought balloons. The story is a bit pat, but sweet in its’ own way.

Oh, and there’s a spiffy Sergio Aragones pin-up!

A great way to end a holiday comic.

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