SUPERMAN: Yes, it's a major holiday in the Christian faith....
SUPERGIRL:...Even though many scholars agree that Jesus's actual birthday probably wasn't in December at all? And Santa Claus isn't in the Bible..?
SUPERMAN: You're just messing with me now, aren't you?
SUPERGIRL: A little. Not really. I don't get it.
SUPERMAN….Put aside the trappings of the day and let's focus on the spirit of Christmas... Christmas is about love, hope, charity....
SUPERGIRL: Yeah, that's what the store windows are pimping. "30% off charity. "Buy love, get hope free."
DC comics had originally announced this would be called Infinite Christmas to pun on the title of their successful Infinite Crisis series. Apparently, they felt the name inappropriate, since a whole one story in the collection acknowledges one of the many traditions associated with this time of year. I understand the marketing here, and the attempt to respect other traditions, but I really, really hate to see a good pun ruined. In any case, the collection features six ten-page stories and one poster, each presenting the adventures of DC's superheroes during midwinter.
"A Hector Hammond Christmas" begins with the Hal Jordan Green Lantern visiting an old enemy in prison. What follows represents the most conventional superhero tale in the collection, complete with a super-fight and emotional reflection. It makes a passable but fairly pointless story. Given how genuinely confusing this tale is to those unfamiliar with the Green Lantern, I'm surprised the editors chose to put it first. I would have buried it somewhere in the middle.
"Christmas Spirits" does much better. The Phantom Stranger sets the tone. He begins to introduce the tale in the manner of Rod Serling or an old-fashioned horror comics host, but then breaks up his pompous prologue and asks us to forget it and just enjoy what follows.
Santa Claus, occasionally real in the DC Universe, hires Shadowpact to deal with the "Anti-Christmas League," a secret evil terrorist organization that has been threatening Old Saint Nick 'til he's seriously lost his jolliness:
RAGMAN: And what is it you want from us?
SANTA: Isn't it obvious?
RAGMAN: Maybe not so much to a Jewish boy from the east side of Gotham.
SANTA: I want you to save Christmas!
It's a wonderful premise that wryly comments on those who believe that some sort of "War on Christmas" threatens this most sacred of days. As portrayed here, Kriss Kringle comes across as a little dotty, unable to recall Detective Chimp's name1, and a little desperate, willing to turn to the world's darkest heroes.
The final twist, cruel and clever, brings this story to a very funny conclusion.
"All I Want for Christmas," the strongest story in the collection, features impressive comic-book characterization. Supergirl wants to understand Christmas. Superman suggests that she respond to a few of the letters he receives each year asking for help. She takes up his challenge, and quickly finds herself involved with a divided, dysfunctional family. All, unfortunately, is not what it seems. In ten pages, we see a plausible (well, given the context) depiction of her relationships with two mentors, her famous cousin and Batman's Alfred. The consequences explore the psychology of our protagonist, a super-powered teen only just adjusting to earth, and willing to take measures that would not meet with the Man of Steel's approval. They also explore the nature of charity and help when given by those with significant advantages. Effectively illustrated with stylized, somewhat cartoony artwork, "All I Want for Christmas" manages, in the disposable comic-book way, the kind of impact a holiday story should have.
"Gift of the Magi" Of all the stories in this collection, this one feels the most like an outtake from a series, and would probably have more meaning if I had been following The Trials of Shazam. It depicts the eternal battle between good and evil on earth. The Marvel Family appear only by reference; it's their mentors and guides we see here. It features, in its favor, excellent artwork by Marcos Marz, Luciana Del Negro, and Rod Reis.
"Father Christmas" tells a fast-paced tale of two versions of the Flash at Christmas. Along the way, they take down one group of crooks while helping a down-and-out former villain reconnect with his son.
"Lights" features Batwoman. As Kathy Kane is expressly Jewish and lesbian in her new incarnation, it focuses on Hanukkah and, along the way, references her family's concerns about the super-doer's alternative lifestyle(s). The story has her smash a ring of thieves while trying to restore the faith of an elderly woman who has not lit the Menorah in a very long time. "Lights" also represents the revived and retconned Batwoman's first solo story. As such, I wish they had given it more than ten pages. It's a decent offering and impressively illustrated, but it feels like pages have been removed. This rushed, chopped quality shortchanges both character and plot.
Finally, "Yes Tyrone, There is a Santa Claus" tells a deliberately cheesy, retro-Silver Age tale of Batman, Superman, and a kid who doubts that Santa Claus really exists. Both art and story nicely parody the familiar characters, and the ending clearly takes this out of any recognized continuity. It's nice to see DC having a little fun.
The "Season’s Greetings" poster which ends the comic depicts the DC staff Christmas party.
Superhero holiday comics are, as a rule, stockings stuffed with a mixed assortment, and Infinite Holiday Special is no exception. It does, however, feature a few shining moments which make it one of the better specials of its kind.
1. For those of you who don't read comics, he's a chimp in a Sherlock Holmes hat. So "Detective Chimp" would be, like, fairly easy to remember. Claus calls him "Magic Monkey."