Marvel Holiday Special #1: “Rock of Ages”
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Nick Dragotta
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited
Review by David Pepose
For many a Jewish person, Hanukkah isn't just a holiday of food and gifts -- it's also a holiday of explaining everything to your friends.
"Isn't that spelled with a 'CH'?" "What do you call that spinny top thing?" "What's a menorah again?"
Being suddenly called upon to be a representative of your entire people can be a little daunting, with the traditions and nuances sometimes clouding over the clarity of your explanations. Yet with their story “Rock of Ages”, from the Marvel Holiday Special #1, Stan Lee and Nick Dragotta have a present for both Jews and non-Jews alike, in an 8-page digital special just in time for the first night of Hanukkah.
If there's one word I'd use to describe this story, it's "sweet." Not in the "rock on, awesome, sweet" kind of way, but genuinely touching. Stan Lee -- originally named Stanley Lieber -- can now add "Jewish spokesman" to his multi-talented resume, as he uses the Thing to explain the sometimes tricky aspects of Hanukkah to his Christmas-celebrating compatriots. Yet this story isn't just didactic -- there's a real element of family and love to it, as Johnny Storm gives Ben a gift that seems to be both for the Thing, as well as a seminal Marvel creator.
Meanwhile, artist Nick Dragotta is really successful in riffing off Jack Kirby's iconoclastic style. Despite this story being relatively low-key -- don't worry, Galactus is not lighting a menorah tonight -- he manages to get the crazy energy and expressiveness a Kirby story -- in particular, there's one panel of Ben Grimm that doesn't even have his full face, but still looks really great. The colors on this piece shouldn't be discounted either -- it's not garishly bright, but there's still a hint of that Silver Age zing to it all, while still being targeted for modern sensibilities.
To be honest, I wasn't expecting a gift today -- but to have Stan Lee himself write a story like this, it comes as a surprising, but ultimately welcoming gesture from Marvel Comics. Due to its length and its creators, it's obviously more of a bite-sized vignette -- but perhaps a better way to look at it is like an extra-long holiday card from the House of Ideas. Either which way, thank you, Marvel -- this is the sort of story that gets you into the holiday spirit.
<i>The full story, a preview of the 4-part 2009 Marvel Digital Holiday Special can be read at http://marvel.com/digitalcomics/titles/marvel_digital_holiday_special.2008.2
The Special rolls on next week as December 16 brings Deadpool to the North Pole in "Merry Freakin’ Christmas"; December 23 features the X-Men in "X-Mas"; and finally the Marvel Divas turn up the "Holiday Heat" on December 29.</i>