You don’t have to be a Grinch to dread Christmas parties. The epitome of mandatory enjoyment, which is to say pure agony, these gatherings tend to degenerate into either uncomfortable conversation with people with whom you have little in common, but whom you can’t avoid for political reasons, or bored chitchat with the same people you talk to every day, chitchat usually consisting of complaints about the same annoying but well-connected people. DC Rebirth Holiday Special #1 starts out in the same dreary tradition with a frame story narrated by Harley Quinn. Harley is very popular, I grant, but the patter from Paul Dini is little more than adequate.
Luckily, the actual vignettes making up the bulk of the oversized issue are, in total, much superior. We start off with a pair of stories featuring one of the most promising developments of Rebirth, the relationship between Superman and his son, Jon. Tim Seeley and Ian Churchill lead off with a classic but heartwarming story of Clark trying to locate the game system Jon wants for Christmas, only to be repeatedly foiled by the demands of a hero’s life. Luckily, Santa turns out to have a pair of unusual elves — hint, they dress like flying mammals and have bad attitudes most of the year. Eric Esquivel and Dan Jurgens follow with a story of what you get for a Kryptonian dog who has pretty much everything a normal canine would desire. Detective Chimp, an old friend too seldom seen, stars in a feature by Heath Corson and Gustavo Duarte. The brilliant simian teams up with Batman to find a missing dog for an old man. The “dog” turns out to have antlers and the old man is very, very busy this time of year.
Unfortunately, Mariko Tamaki’s story about John Constantine and Wonder Woman at a Winter Solstice celebration is marred by Matias Bergara’s art, which is reminescent of a faded medieval tapestry. The story represents strong ideas that fail to come together in a compelling narrative. The Flash story that comes next also disappoints. James Tynion IV’s script is oddly grim, while Robbi Rodriguez’ art is nearly expressionistic. A New Superman story by Gene Luen Yang and Andrea Mutti is both short and negligible.
A strong Batwoman tale from K. Perkins and Paolo Pantalena gets things going again. This is followed by a Titans New Year’s Eve adventure from James Asmus and Reilly Brown that sensitively explores themes of addiction, recovering, and friendship while also featuring the explosive return of Ding Dong Daddy and Honeybun. A brief but amusing interlude with Nightwing and Batgirl by Bill Freiberger and Thomas Pitilli rounds off this section. The final tale, a by-the-numbers Green Lantern story from the usually dynamic Steve Orlando, brings the volume to a stumbling close.
In all, many probably feel that the book did not justify its high price. I can understand that. But it's a pleasant time with some old buddies and only a few annoying gaffes. Even throwing in the tired frame narration, that makes for a pretty good time, as Christmas parties go!