Best Shots Review: DC REBIRTH HOLIDAY SPECIAL #1 'Schmaltzy Feel-Good Variety'

"DC Rebirth Holiday Special #1" preview
Credit: Elsa Charretier/Hi-Fi (DC Comics)
Credit: Jorge Jimenez/Alejandro Sanchez (DC Comics)

DC Rebirth Holiday Special #1
Written by Paul Dini, Tim Seeley, Eric Esquivel, Heath Corson, Mariko Tamaki, James Tynion IV, Gene Luen Yang, K. Perkins, James Asmus, Bill Freiberger, Steve Orlando and Vito Ayala
Art by Elsa Charretier, Ian Churchill, Alex Sollazzo, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Gustavo Duarte, Marcelo Malolo, Matías Bergara, J. Nanjan, Robbi Rodriguez, Alejandro Sanchez, Andrea Mutti, Ben Hunzeker, Paolo Pantalena, Arif Prianto, Reilly Brown, Scott Hanna, Tony Avina, Thomas Pitilli, V. Ken Marion and Mick Gray
Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual and Josh Reed
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Credit: Elsa Charretier/Hi-Fi (DC Comics)

On the whole, "Rebirth" has really revitalized a DC publishing line that had let gloom and doom take over during the "New 52" era. It’s only fitting that with a brighter outlook, the publisher decided to put out a holiday special, gathering creators from across their stable together for some superhero-flavored holiday cheer. But at a $10 price point, is it worthwhile for fans of the DC universe? The answer really depends on how you frame your reading of the book. If you’re in the market for stories that “count” towards the overarching mystery of the "Rebirth" DCU, you might want to skip this one. There’s a lot of content here, but it’s of the schmaltzy feel-good variety.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of fun to be had here. The book is sort of “hosted” by Harley Quinn. Paul Dini and Elsa Charretier do a really good job of being the connective tissue of the book, making it feel like a variety show gone slightly awry. Harley is a great choice to anchor the book with humor and heart. It helps that Charretier is adept at expression work and the physical comedy present in the script.

Credit: Elsa Charretier/Hi-Fi (DC Comics)

There are 10 stories in all. The standouts are the Superman/Batman caper “The Last Minute” by Tim Seeley and Ian Churchill; Superboy/Krypto story “For the Dog Who Has Everything” by Eric Esquivel, Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund; the Batman and Detective Chimp tale “The Night We Saved Christmas” by Heath Corson and Gustavo Duarte; the Wonder Woman and Constantine team-up “Dreaming of a White Christmas” by Mariko Tamaki and Matias Bergara; and “A Flash Christmas Carol” by James Tynion IV and Robbi Rodriguez.

What all these stories have in common is tight storytelling that embraces the holiday nature of the stories in natural ways. Seeley and Churchill’s set-up is similar to Jingle All the Way but has a solid twist. Esquivel, Jurgens and Rapmund get to have a little bit of fun with some continuity and deliver a very cute, heartfelt story. The Batman/Detective Chimp is a bit of a surprise, but by playing with detective story tropes and juxtaposing them with the absurdity of the characters, Corson and Duarte are able to create something unique and entertaining.

Credit: Ian Churchill/Alex Sollazzo (DC Comics)

The two best stories are the Wonder Woman/Constantine and Flash stories. They’re pitch-perfect because they feel like stories that might just exist in those books despite the holiday season. Tamaki and Bergara nail the dynamic between Constantine and Diana while Tynion and Rodriguez really embrace the worldview of Barry Allen. While all the stories are fairly light, the ones with a lot of heart are definitely the best of the bunch.

Unfortunately, they’re all front-loaded in the first half of the book. While the rest of the stories are necessarily bad, they definitely don’t resonate as well as the first handful. The Batgirl/Nightwing and New Super-Man stories are so short that they’re over before they really let readers get invested. Meanwhile, the Titans, Batwoman, and Green Lantern stories all overstay their welcome just a little bit, featuring plots with clever ideas but lackluster execution.

Your mileage may vary with an anthology like this. If you really love the season and want to see these characters getting up to some holiday hijinks, you’ll definitely have fun with this book. But even at 88 pages, the price point may give some readers reason to pause. That’s a potentially big burden on a pull list (and a holiday shopping budget) for stories that are very sweet but lack any sort of impactful substance. It would be a different story if the second half of the book stood up as well as the first half, but this special stands firmly in the middle of the road.

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