Jan 222015
 
Writer: Erik Burnham
Artists: Nacho Arranz and Esther Sanz
IDW PUBLISHING

Four-Color Bullet

Welcome to this week’s Four-Color Bullet, the only comic book review column not getting a universe-spanning reboot. Let’s look at the picks from this week.

From the aforementioned folks at Marvel, the penultimate chapter of Spider-Verse is here, and the Inheritors may succeed in exterminating every Spider everywhere. The Spiders of the multiverse must rally or face their ultimate doom, in Amazing Spider-Man #13; Tony’s actions become more questionable, and a beaten Daredevil tries to stop him, in Superior Iron Man #4; the X-Men continue their adventure with Miles Morales in the Ultimate Universe, in All-New X-Men #35

Over at DC, Batman and Robin are together again at last. But will the dynamic of the Dynamic Duo change now that Robin has super powers? Find out in Batman and Robin #38; the Amazo Virus has infected every member of the Justice League but one, and now Batman falls, in Justice League #38; Gotham City has a new crime-fighter! Introducing … the Joker?! Find out in Batman ’66 #52

And from IDW, Krang begins his invasion of Earth, and Donatello strikes a secret bargain with Shredder and the Foot for help, in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #42

 

Writer: Erik Burnham Artists: Nacho Arranz and Esther Sanz IDW PUBLISHING

Writer: Erik Burnham
Artists: Nacho Arranz and Esther Sanz
IDW PUBLISHING

Back in 1999, the movie Galaxy Quest was a tongue-in-cheek, sci-fi action/adventure about the cast of a cancelled, cult-status, science-fiction television series called Galaxy Quest, who now spend their lives showing up at cons, dealing with their often-obsessed fans. Until, that is, an alien race called the Thermians watched the show, and believed it to be factual and historical.

Believing that the actors were the real thing, the Thermians enlisted them in their fight against the alien despot Sarris, going so far as recreating the ship from the show, the NSEA Protector. It was a good movie, and funny, and had some lighthearted fun at Star Trek and its fans. Tim Allen played Jason Nesmith, who played Peter Quincy Taggart, captain of the Protector. Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Daryl Mitchell, who plays Tommy Laredo, a “Wesley Crusher” type character, now all grown up appearing at cons, and Sam Rockwell, who plays Guy Fleegman, who played a “redshirt” security guard that no one remembers on the show, rounds out the cast.

For years, a sequel has been discussed but nothing ever came of it. Until IDW released Galaxy Quest: The Adventure Continues in comic book form. The story begins a few years after the actors’ first adventure. Their actions in their fight against Sarris have affected another world, and there is a price to be paid. Erik Burnham, who is a favorite of mine from his work on IDW’s fantastic Ghostbusters series, takes the writing duties on Galaxy Quest. And also like Ghostbusters, every character is written as we remember them from the movie. We’re introduced to a new alien race, and we see the consequences of the Protector crew’s actions concerning that race right off the bat. Some funny banter between the cast pretty much rounds out the issue, and it’s a slow one. But I’m eager to see how the story plays out, as Burnham leaves us with a cliffhanger in the first issue.

My only real dislike is the artistic portrayals of the characters. It’s obvious that IDW wasn’t given the rights to the likenesses of the actors, so Nesmith doesn’t look like Tim Allen, Tawny Madison doesn’t look like Weaver, etc. But artist Nacho Arranz doesn’t do a great job showing differences in likenessses. Everyone looks like everyone else. I had to refer frequently to a “who’s who” panel just to tell the difference between Nesmith and Dane Alexander, who plays the Spock-type character in the show, played by Rickman in the film. If it wasn’t for the fact that Fleegman is drawn with facial hair, he’d look identical to everyone else. The rest of Arranz’ work is good, however. Clean crisp scenery, action scenes nicely drawn. Just clean up those faces.

In a nutshell, Galaxy Quest: The Adventure Continues #1 was faithful to the movie, but the pacing was slow and the art was mediocre at best. The second issue won’t have to try very hard to be better than this one.

And that concludes Four-Color Bullet for this week. Email and comment if you wish, and I’ll be back next week with Wednesday’s best.

It’s a good time to be a comics fan. See ya next week!

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Jan 152015
 
Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciler: John Cassaday
Colors: Laura Martin
MARVEL

fourColorBullet1

Welcome to this week’s Four-Color Bullet: proudly enabling obsessive comic-book geeks since 2014.

On the DC side of the Multiverse, things are going well for Barbara Gordon a.k.a. Batgirl. But Gotham being Gotham, the other yellow boot is just about to drop, in Batgirl #38; it’s Constantine and Doctor Fate vs. the parademons of Apokolips with the fate of Earth-2 in the balance, in Constantine #21; Wonder Woman takes on the disco-era version of the Silver Swan as she fights to nab a Russian spy, in Wonder Woman ’77 #2.

From the Marvel side of the dimensional boundary, Agent Simmons goes undercover at Coles High School, leading to a team-up between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Ms. Marvel, in S.H.I.E.L.D. #2; Captain America takes on the Red Skull’s daughter, Sin, in All-New Captain America #3; and it’s the shocking conclusion to the Daredevil-Stunt-Master face-off, in Daredevil #12.

 

Marvel takes us back to a galaxy far, far away

Writer: Jason Aaron Penciler: John Cassaday Colors: Laura Martin MARVEL

Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciler: John Cassaday
Colors: Laura Martin
MARVEL

After 20 years of award-winning stories from Dark Horse Comics, the Star Wars franchise has returned to Marvel. I went into this first issue determined not to like it, as I had been a huge fan of the Dark Horse stories. Thoughts of green, blaster-wielding rabbits occupied the forefront of my thoughts as I opened the first issue. I think I was hooked from the first page, with the familiar, blue, “A long time ago …” introduction, followed by the Star Wars logo on the following page, and a crawl on the next page. John Williams’ triumphant main theme was playing in the theater of my mind. It felt like a movie. It was obvious from the get-go that Marvel is dead serious about the quality of their second attempt at publishing Star Wars. This is the way it’s supposed to be.

It helped knowing that Jason Aaron, whose work on Thor was some of the best storytelling in comics, was taking the writing duties. If it’s at all daunting to write and put voices to characters we all know and love, characters who are the very foundation of our pop culture, Aaron doesn’t falter or take a misstep. Star Wars takes place between Episodes IV and V. The Rebels have just destroyed the Empire’s fearsome new battle station and they’re riding that wave. But there’s still work to be done, and in this first issue, Luke, Leia, Han, and company have their work cut out for them, and we’re given one heck of a cliffhanger. One might say they’re in deep pudu.

John Cassaday, of whom I have been a fan since his work on post 9/11 Captain America, does a great job of capturing the likenesses of our heroes and villains. And with Laura Martin on colors, the final product is a very well drawn comic with a definite Star Wars feel.

I was happy to be surprised by how good this first issue ended up being. Maybe I’m jumping the gun, or blaster, and this is just the first issue, but if the series continues at the pace of the first issue, Marvel has a solid thing going.

This is the Star Wars comic I’m looking for.  

And that wraps up Four-Color Bullet  for this week. Email and comment at your leisure.

It’s a great time to be a comics fan.

See you next week, Bulleteers!

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Jan 102015
 
Writer: Mark Andreyko
Artists: Drew Johnson and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
DC COMICS

Four-Color Bullet

Hello, Bulleteers! It’s Four-Color Bullet time! Welcome to the only comic book review column not being canceled to have a movie made about it.

This week on the DC side of the fence, Mister Miracle, Mister Terrific, and Fury battle to escape Apokolips, in Earth 2: World’s End #14; Lobo’s on a mission to save the Earth, and he doesn’t have time for Superman’s crap, in Lobo #4; Ice returns to the new Justice League. But is she the same Ice they all knew and loved? The answer in Justice League 3000 #13.

From Marvel this week, Tony Stark gives Scott Lang an offer he can’t refuse, in Ant-Man #1; the fight for their existence continues as the Spider-People and the Inheritors duke it out in epic fashion for the first time, in Amazing Spider-Man #12. Part Four of Spider-Verse; Peter and Kitty’s relationship is strained to the breaking point with this whole Mr. Knife hullabaloo. You know what will fix it? You guessed it. A prison break! Love, romance, and pain-in-the-neck bad guys abound in Legendary Star-Lord #7

From BOOM! Studios, Snake Plissken has escaped from New York, and now finds himself the most wanted fugitive in what’s left of America. But hiding out in the seceded state of Florida puts our anti-hero in a whole new pot of political corruption, in Escape from New York #2.

 

Diana Prince, Steve Trevor, I.R.A, Inter-Agency Defense Command back for groovy good time.

Writer: Mark Andreyko Artists: Drew Johnson and Romulo Fajardo, Jr. DC COMICS

Writer: Mark Andreyko
Artists: Drew Johnson and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
DC COMICS

Following in the footsteps of Batman ’66, DC has brought the classic Wonder Woman TV series to comics, continuing WW’s 1970s-styled adventures. This first issue was so well done, it made me feel like a kid again. Writer Marc Andreyko, and artists Drew Johnson (pencils and inks) and Romulo Fajardo Jr. (colors) managed to capture the very things that made the TV series such a success, and bring them to comics fans.

Like Jeff Lemire’s Batman ’66, you don’t have to have seen the 1970s series to jump into the first issue. Andreyko is obviously a fan, because this debut reads like an episode set in the disco-and-polyester era. Johnson and Fajardo Jr.’s art is fantastic, absolutely nailing Lynda Carter’s and Lyle Waggoner’s likenesses, which, by the way, Carter and Waggoner gave DC hands-down and enthusiastic permission to use. It’s nice knowing they’re as excited about this thing as the fans.

Once again, there’s a lack of budgetary constraints keeping them from telling some potentially some over-the top stories, but Johnson’s scenes widen the scope without adding anything that feels out of place in the world of Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman. Panel for panel, everything is crisp and neat, and the artists succeed in bringing New York of the 1970s to life for the reader.

And writer Andreyko has promised that we will see some of WW’s Rogues Gallery show up as they might have looked on the 70s tv show. One appears at the end of the first issue.

Also like Batman ’66, Wonder Woman ’77‘s single issues are digital exclusive, but there will be collected editions available in print.

For many of us, Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman is the definitive Wonder Woman. I remember sitting in front of the TV as that bombastic, red-white-and-blue opening sequence came to life on the screen, with the best theme song in television superhero history blaring from the speakers. But, all of that aside, it was good storytelling of a character that many comic book writers claim to have trouble with. This is a series that understands the character and who she is. As I was discussing with my comic shop guy yesterday, there are as many bad Wonder Woman stories out there as there are good ones. And over her storied 75 years, some real stinkers. This comic book geek is proud to announce that Wonder Woman ’77 is one of the good ones. I’ve even provided the aforementioned television opening credits sequence for you to watch. Because I like you folks.

And that’s Four-Color Bullet for this week. Feel free to email or comment about anything comics related. This is my obsession. Come join me in my four-color powered madness.

It’s a good time to be a comics fan. See ya next week!

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Jan 032015
 
Mark Waid: Writer
Carlos Pacheco: Penciler
Dono Almara: Colorist
MARVEL

Welcome to Four-Color Bullet, the only comic book review column not afraid to Force-choke that creepy Elf on the Shelf. My fellow Bulleteers, this will be a very abbreviated edition, due to the fact that the holidays caused the comic pickings to be somewhat sparse. But my pick of the week is S.H.I.E.L.D., the new series written by my personal favorite Mark Waid, with art by the brilliant Carlos Pacheco.

Mark Waid: Writer Carlos Pacheco: Penciler Dono Almara: Colorist MARVEL

Mark Waid: Writer
Carlos Pacheco: Penciler
Dono Almara: Colorist
MARVEL

This new series about the organization keeping Earth safe from super-powered threats both out-in-the-middle-of-space foreign and domestic pretty much mirrors the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series, but places the team in the mainstream Marvel Universe. Agent Phil Coulson leads a team of agents into hot spots where super-powered threats pop up. Coulson is picked to lead the team due to his obsession with Earth’s super heroes, unfailingly knowing their strengths and weaknesses. It seems that Coulson has a knack for creating teams out of individual heroes to do the most good in a particular situation. Kind of like a game of Hero Clix. As an example, Coulson mentions in one particular scene that he knows how Quicksilver can kill the Hulk.

Joining Agent Coulson and his team are Leo Fitz, level five gadgeteer; Jemma Simmons, xenobiologist; and Melinda May, combat specialist. Their first mission: Rescue Heimdall from a Sharzhadian rebel with a sword made of Uru metal.

By putting heavy hitters like Waid, Pacheco, and different artists on the series as it goes along, it looks like Marvel is taking it seriously. It seems that Waid is free to pick and choose what heroes he wants to use from his bag o’ goodies. Waid does a nice job of giving Coulson some back story without bogging down the entire issue. Fans of the Cinematic Universe already knew he was a fanboy when it came to Earth’s heroes, and Coulson’s flashbacks do a good job of reiterating it. We also see his standing in the hero community, which I thought was pretty cool by itself.

Putting the Agents in the Marvel 616 universe certainly turns the heat up, and gives Marvel an unlimited budget, unburdened by television restrictions and so forth, to do what they want to do and tell the kinds of unfettered stories they want to tell. Bringing live action to the comics medium, with the “unlimited budget” can work, but as I’ve seen often, the writers take the characters way out of their depth and into wholly unbelievable situations. But sometimes it works, and I think Waid will bring Coulson and crew to a fun, comic book level, and tell great stories in the medium. Check out Waid’s work on Daredevil for more of his work and proof of his genius.

It’s nice to see Pacheco stretch his legs and cut loose, drawing some atypical Marvel settings. This one doesn’t take place entirely in New York City.  And if the book’s purpose is to showcase other heroes assisting S.H.I.E.L.D. outside their normal environments, this is going to be good.

I think this will be one to watch. There’s a lot of potential, here, and Waid is a proven storyteller. It’ll be interesting to see if anything else mirrors the series. But in the meantime, although this isn’t the first time we’ve seen him on the 616, it’s good to see that Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. are going to stay busy.

And that is 4CB for this week. E-mail and comments are welcome as always.

It’s going to be a wild ride for comics fans in 2015. Buckle up, Buttercup!

See ya next week!

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Dec 292014
 
Stan Lee, 92 years old today.
Stan Lee, 92 years old today.

The hopefully immortal Stan Lee.

by Gene Turnbow, station manager

It’s official as of yesterday: Stan Lee is 92. The icon of comics is still with us and still busy making new projects in film, games and of course, comic books. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this man to comic books and the entertainment industry as a whole. He has created hundreds of our favorite characters, and written the archetypal stories that define the art of comics as it stands today.

Born in New York City on December 28, 1922, Stan Lee went on to work for Timely Comics, the company that would eventually become Marvel Comics. With artist Jack Kirby, Lee launched the superhero team the Fantastic Four in 1961, and went on to create dozens of the most iconic heroes in comics, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, The Hulk, and Thor.

He rose to being Marvel’s editor-in-chief in 1972, and used that position to put together some of the finest creative teams the world of comics has ever seen. His biggest talent seems to be putting people together who go on to create the amazing, the astounding, and the enthralling – and he’s still doing it.

Lee is Chairman Emeritus of Marvel, as well as a member of the Editorial Board of Marvel Comics. He is currently currently the Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of POW! Entertainment, a multimedia entertainment company based in Beverly Hills, CA, which he founded with production partner Gill Champion and business affairs partner the late Arthur Lieberman. POW! is busy creating new characters and stories in areas including publishing, film, TV, reality, stage, documentary, and multimedia.

Lee just keeps moving relentlessly forward, and his joy and enthusiasm for his creative work seem to keep him energized and inspired. Keep the flame alive, Stan. We’re really looking forward to that big 100-year anniversary tabletop edition in eight years.

- 30 -

Dec 252014
 
SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT

Four-Color Bullet

It’s the Four-Color Bullet Christmas Special!

Starring Superman! Batman! Spider-Man! Hellboy! The X-Men! The Justice League of America! Santa Claus! And More!

Welcome to The Four-Color Bullet Christmas Special, Kryptonics! Usually, Four-Color Bullet is where I review my comic book picks of the week. But naturally I had to have a Christmas Special! I have in my big red sack of goodies what I think are the top 12 Christmas comic books stories of all time. We begin with one Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man.

12) The Spectacular Spider-Man #112: “You Never Make a Sound” (Marvel, 1986)

Spec Spider-Man 112

Writer Peter David crafted this Christmas tale about a Macy’s-employed Santa Claus who is asking visiting children for their addresses with the intent of robbing their houses. And Dark St. Nick’s next victim is none other than Peter’s neighbor Bambi and her son Jordan.

Santa breaks into Bambi’s apartment, gun in hand and looting the place, when Bambi surprises him. Peter’s Spider-Sense goes off, alerting him to the danger. He changes into Spider-Man and crashes into Bambi’s window to stop the sinister Santa.

Santa leads Spidey on a merry chase to the roof, but when Santa gets there, he runs smack into another red-boot-wearing individual. The real Santa Claus! And he’s not very jolly. And when Spidey gets to the roof, Dirty Santa is nowhere to be found.

The next day, Peter gets a call from Kathryn Cushing saying to go down to the office, and the burglar is there handing out presents. But not the things he stole. Those items were in a corner, and he was giving out homemade wooden toys and stuffed animals. And he even confessed to all the burglaries. Then he gives Peter a message, saying it was given to him by a friend of Peter’s, to prove he’s changed his ways. The message reads “Call your Aunt! Merry Xmas!” And the next thing we see is Peter spending a nice Christmas Day with his Aunt May, Mary Jane and Aunt Anna Watson, who is visiting from Florida.

 

11) Batman #239: “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (DC Comics, 1972)

SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT

Writer Denny O’Neil and vastly underestimated penciler Irv Novick brought us this tale about Batman being on the hunt for a guy who has been robbing Santa Clauses for a few weeks. Naturally, the Darknight Detective catches up with the pilferer, only to have him beg for mercy, claiming that he’s only been robbing to support himself and his niece, Betsy, because his previous employer shafted him. Batman will not be swayed, however, telling the crook that he’s a strong man and able to work to support themselves.

The crook gets a momentary drop on Batman and knocks him unconscious by smashing a lamp over his head. When Batman comes to, he is “stuck” taking care of the man’s niece while he pursues the crook in a blinding snowstorm.

The crook, who we now know is named Tim, arrives at the home of toymaker Richard Lee Evans, for whom Tim once worked. Tim demands that Evans give him the money he’s still owed, threatening to kill him.

Meanwhile, Batman and Betsy find themselves lost in the Gotham woods during the snowstorm. Batman is afraid that Tim will kill Evans before he can find him, leaving Betsy with no one to care for her. Wishing for a miracle, Batman is surprised, along with Betsy, to hear bells. They track the sound to a lone sleigh with a horse attached and they use it to make their way to Evans’ home, where Tim refused to kill Evans, instead saving his life after having a heart attack.

All ends well as everyone gathers at the hospital to wrap up the story, until Batman notices the horse and sleigh have mysteriously vanished. Briefly, Batman wonders who they belonged to, until he looks up at the night sky, noticing a bright star in the heavens. and confidently realizes who was responsible.

 

10) Super Star Holiday Special : Wanted: Santa Claus– Dead or Alive (DC Comics, 1980)

HOLIDAY SPECIAL

Denny O’Neil teamed up with the legendary Frank Miller, who did the penciling on this short story about a contract out on Santa. And it wouldn’t be the first time poor Santa would be the target of a hitman.

In this particular story, on Christmas Eve, Batman confronts mobster Matty Lasko, asking him why he’s arranged to have a boat in Gotham Harbor that night. After a quick scuffle with Lasko and his goons, Batman learns the boat is for an ex-con named Boomer Katz.

He then goes undercover to find out Katz’s current location and learns that he’s working as a department store Santa Claus. Batman concludes that Katz must be doing this as a way of pulling an inside job robbery, and sure enough his hunch is right.

That is, until the Christmas spirit overtakes Katz who then refuses to commit the robbery. His co-conspirators aren’t having it, and force him at gunpoint to let them into the store. Batman arrives and ambushes the goons, one of whom escapes with Katz. It ends on what is supposed to be a Dickens-esque note whereby a shining star from a Nativity scene reveals the location of the henchman  just in time for Batman to get the drop on him and save Katz’s life.

 

9) Superman #64: “Metropolis Mailbag” (DC Comics, 1991)

METROPOLIS MAILBAG

The Man of Steel makes the Christmas list in this story by writer/penciler Dan Jurgens. Much like with Santa Claus, people around the world write letters to Superman throughout the year, asking for his help. And also like Santa, Superman does what he can every Christmas. Some letters range from the silly, like being asked to squeeze coal into diamonds and send them to the letter writer, to the heartbreaking, being asked by a young boy to cure his father’s brain tumor, to the hopeful, where Superman is asked by a Holocaust survivor to find her sister who she discovered is still alive.

Superman does what he can, even enlisting Bruce Wayne’s help to spread a little Christmas cheer. Easily one of the best Superman stories ever written, in addition to being a fine Christmas story.

 

 

8) Uncanny X-Men #230: “‘Twas the Night …” (Marvel, 1988)

TWAS THE NIGHT The merry mutants join the festivities at number eight in the countdown. To set up the story, the world believes the X-Men are dead, since their “deaths” were broadcast all over television and the media during a fight with a cosmic entity in Dallas, Texas. In reality, the team is holed up in the Australian Outback headquarters of an evil band of cyborg marauders called the Reavers.

While exploring their new digs, the X-Men find a treasure trove of goodies that the Reavers have stolen. Longshot, who can read the history of an object when he touches it, demonstrates his ability to his teammates by reading some of the trinkets. With the help of an aborigine known as Gateway, who has the ability to open a portal to anywhere on the globe, the X-Men decide to spend the night returning the stolen goods to their rightful owners. But the team has been so distracted by recent events, they’ve forgotten that the night they’ve chosen … is Christmas!

This was from the Chris Claremont era of Uncanny X-Men, from which many good stories came. While this particular plotline of their fake deaths and hiding out in Australia wasn’t my favorite, this was a good issue, and a nice break from the apocalyptic story arc that was currently going on.

 

7) Hellboy Christmas Special #1: “A Christmas Underground”  (Dark Horse Comics, 1997)

HELLBOY CHRISTMAS SPECIAL

Even Hellboy gets wrapped up in Christmas cheer. This story by Mike Mignola opens with Hellboy being summoned to a old castle where an old woman lost her daughter years ago. Now, the old woman herself is dying, and she asks for Hellboy’s assistance. The woman, who thinks Hellboy is “Father Christmas” asks him to get an heirloom in a small box from the mantlepiece to give to her daughter, who, the woman insists, visits her sometimes.

Hellboy agrees to the woman’s request. He goes to the Underground, finds the woman’s daughter Annie, and gives her the box. Annie opens the box and screams when she sees it contains a crucifix, and it is then that Hellboy realizes that she is being held captive. An army of demons arrives to dispatch Hellboy, and what follows is a beautifully drawn confrontation between Hellboy and the “prince” who holds Annie’s soul captive.

Aided by the power of Christmas Eve, Hellboy comes out on top, frees Annie, and the daughter visits her mother. One final battle occurs between Hellboy and the forces of darkness, then both mother and daughter are at peace. The usual Mike Mignola awesomeness in a really good Christmas story.

 

6) JLA #60: “Merry Christmas, Justice League– Now, DIE!” (DC Comics, 2001)

JLA 60

Mark Waid’s final issue of 2001’s JLA recounts a tale told by Plastic Man to his best pal Woozy’s nephew. To help the young man sleep in anticipation of Santa, Plas tells him of the time that Santa joined the League.

It’s a cute tale of how the demonic Neron decides to muck about with Christmas by giving the kids their presents early, and each present having a dark twist. The JLA and Santa intervene, but the League is turned to coal, and Santa is forced to fight Neron alone. And fight he does.

What happens next is a hilarious and brilliant depiction of an angry, superheroic Santa taking on Neron and his forces for the survival of Christmas. Cliff Rathburn and Paul Neary did an amazing job on artwork. If Waid wanted a great story to go out on, he got it with this one.

 

 

5) Marvel Team-Up #1: “Have Yourself a Sandman Little Christmas” (Marvel, 1971)

MARVEL TEAMUP CHRISTMAS

While it’s odd for the first issue of a series to be a holiday issue, the first issue of this long-running series certainly was. Peter is on the beach getting pics of the Polar Bear club for the Daily Bugle’s Christmas Eve edition when Sandman shows up. The police try to apprehend him, but since he can sand his way out of the cuffs, they don’t succeed.

Peter heads after Sandman, but runs into the Human Torch, whom he enlists to help nail the villain. After a battle on the George Washington Bridge, the duo is captured, bound, and tossed over the side into the water. After some quick thinking by Spidey, the Torch saves their bacon.

Our heroes locate Sandman, who is visiting his dying mother in a nursing home, a thing he says he does every year. Sandman begs Spidey and the Torch for five minutes to see his mother, and then he’ll give himself up. They agree, which causes both of them to think about their respective families and how important they are to them.

And we end it with a gorgeous final panel drawn by Ross Andru, where our heroes go their separate ways, with the Human Torch writing in the sky, “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.” A great Christmas addition, written by the legendary Roy Thomas.

 

4) Arak: Son of Thunder #22: “Siege of a Time-Lost City” (DC Comics, 1983)

ARAK CHRISTMAS

Arak, Valda and Satyricus have been taken prisoner pending a public execution in White Cathay. But with the help of Brunello, Master Thief of Africa, the trio are soon free to once again attempt to rescue Malagigi from the clutches of Angelica. That’s not going to be easy when outside the city is being besieged by Tartars, and inside the city is in open revolt … and if that weren’t enough, Haakan of Ultima Thule finally arrives on the scene!

While not a Christmas issue, per se, I picked this as part of the countdown because of one scene. In a brief passage, we learn that a Nestorian priest traveling through time joins three Persian kings who are following the star over Bethlehem. When he reaches the manger outside the inn, the baby Jesus heals him. I always thought that was kinda neat.

 

 

 

3) Hitman #22: The Santa Contract (DC Comics, 1998)

HITMAN CHRISTMAS

It’s a Hitman for the holidays, as Tommy and Natt are hired to take out a crazed, radioactive super-villain rampaging through Gotham on Christmas Eve dressed as Santa. It was also picked as number 93 on Wizard Magazine‘s list of 100 Best Single Issue Comic Books Since You Were Born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) Uncanny X-Men #143: “Demon” (Marvel, 1981)

X-MEN CHRISTMAS

The second X-Men entry on the Top 12 list is an offbeat tale, and the final issue of the acclaimed Chris Claremont/John Byrne/Terry Austin run. It’s Christmas Eve but all of the X-Men are busy and they leave Kitty Pryde behind at the mansion alone to mind things while they’re gone.

Later, the mansion is attacked by a N’garai demon. Kitty tries to escape and phases through floor and walls but the demon is relentless. She lures it into the Danger Room, but it trashes every single weapon that the room throws at it.

Finally, Kitty escapes into the Hangar and manages to fry the demon with the Blackbird’s afterburners. Later, the X-Men return with Kitty’s parents as a surprise, and they are all proud of how well she handled the situation. And, on a personal note, this was the first comic I ever read. It’s kinda important.

 

 

And now, the Number One Christmas Story of All Time as picked by yours truly!

DRUM ROLL PLEASE!

1) DC Comics Presents #67: “Twas the Fright Before Christmas” (DC Comics, 1984)

SUPERMAN AND SANTA CLAUS

My pick for the best Christmas story ever is this little gem starring Superman in a fantastic and fun team-up with Santa Claus.

Timmy Dickens holds up a sidewalk Santa Claus with a dart gun. Superman finds that the boy is under a powerful hypnotic suggestion. Carrying Dickens to his Fortress of Solitude, Superman uses alien technology to break the boy’s trance. Timmy reveals that he had raided the closet where his parents stored all of his Christmas gifts. Upon firing the dart gun, there had been a flash. Dickens remembers nothing after that. Superman hypnotizes Dickens to unlock his lost memories.

A tape recording on the gun instructed Dickens to rob the sidewalk Santa Claus, then deliver the loot to a local Big Shott Toy Store. Superman realizes that his old foe, the Toy Man is the culprit behind the crime. Superman is heading back to Metropolis, carrying Dickens home, when the toy space craft in Dickens’ hand emits a beam of energy, directly into Superman’s face. The Man of Steel plummets to the Earth like a stone, just managing to twist his body enough to absorb all the impact and keeping Dickens from injury.

In the deep snow, Dickens tries and fails to revive the fallen Man of Steel. The pair are discovered by a half dozen elves, who carry the unconscious Superman to safety. Meanwhile, the Toy Man has monitored the entire affair from his hidden lair in Metropolis.

Superman awakens in the abode of Santa Claus. Unable to believe the evidence before their very eyes, the Man of Steel and Dickens, are taken on a tour of Santa’s workshop. Santa Claus, it appears, is keeping an eye of the Toy Man.

Despite the modernization of the workshop, Santa Claus bemoans the loss of the simpler times, when his elves cobbled together wooden soldiers and rocking horses. Superman, too, becomes nostalgic for his own early childhood toys, specifically a Kryptonian holo-toy, capable of generating images directly from Superman’s mind.

Santa Claus gathers his giant sack of toys and mounts up for his Christmas deliveries. Superman tries to make it back to civilization under his own steam, but still suffers from the effects of the Toy Man’s weapon. Once again plummeting from the sky, Superman lands in Santa’s sleigh, where he stays for the remainder of the journey. Superman and Santa arrive at the Toy Man’s hideout, Superman entering through the chimney, taking the Toy Man by surprise. The Toy Man counters with an army of weaponized toys. Santa Claus provides support with his own army of weaponized toys. Still suffering the after-effects of the Toy Man’s little space ship weapon, Superman finds he’s hard pressed in the fight against the Toy Man’s diabolical toys.

Santa Claus’ toys provide the respite Superman needs to finally triumph over the Toy Man’s automated forces. The Toy Man levels a toy gun, powered by white dwarf star matter, at the Man of Steel. Santa Claus scatters marbles across the floor, causing the Toy Man to lose his balance. The errant shot from the Toy Man’s weapon hits one of his robot soldiers, instead of Superman. The mechanized monster plummets through the shop floor, its momentum carrying it to the Earth’s core. Superman uses his heat vision to melt the Toy Man’s gun.

With the Toy Man defeated, Superman uncovers a list of customers who have unwittingly purchased deadly toys from the Toy Man’s stores. With Santa Claus’ aid, Superman covers the entire continent, darting in and out of one home after another, replacing the Toy Man’s gimmicked gifts with harmless replicas from Santa Claus’ bag. Superman is just about to return Dickens to his home, when the little starship toy once again blasts the Man of Steel into unconsciousness.

Superman awakens in the North Pole, with Dickens standing over him. The whole adventure with Santa Claus was nothing more than a dream. Superman carries Dickens back home. Reaching into the secret cape pocket for his civilian clothes, Superman finds his long lost Kryptonian holo-toy. Activating the device, Superman finds a Christmas message from Santa Claus.

Written by E. Nelson Bridwell, I absolutely love this story and I read it every Christmas. The clean, gorgeous art from the one and only Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez is a definite bonus.

And that, gang, is it. Thanks for checking out The Four-Color Bullet Christmas Special.  As always, as with the weekly column, email or comment on these picks, and feel free to add your own.

Merry Christmas, peace on earth, and good will toward men.

See you next week!

 -30-