DC Nuclear Winter Special #1
Writers: Mark Russell, Collin Kelley & Jackson Lanzing, Steve Orlando, Jeff Loveness, Tom Taylor, Mairghread Scott, Paul Dini, Phil Hester, Cecil Castellucci and Dave Wielgosz
Pencils: Mike Norton, Giuseppe Camuncoli & Cam Smith, Brad Walker & Drew Hennessy, Christian Duce, Tom Derenick & Yasmine Putri, Dexter Soy, Jerry Ordway, Phil Hester & Ande Parks, Amancay Nahuelpan and Scott Kolins
Colors: Hi-Fi, Romulo Fajardo Jr., Nathan Fairbairn, Luis Guerrero, Yasmine Putri, Veronica Gandini, Dave McCaig, Trish Mulvihill, Brian Buccellato and John Kalisz
Letters: Deron Bennett, Clayton Cowles, Tom Napolitano, Steve Wands, Dave Sharpe and Josh Reed
Cover artist: Yanick Paquette
Editors: Alex Antone & Dave Wielgosz
Price: $9.99 US
DC certainly made this year’s holiday special stand apart from previous ones with a post-apocalyptic theme. It’s an odd choice, but for longtime DC readers, it’s a fun and interesting divergence from the norm. However, newer readers or those with only a passing familiarity with DC lore, this could make for some confusion, as there are some deep cuts that might leave the uninitiated scratching their heads. Ultimately, this is as diverting and entertaining as most super-hero holiday specials have been in the past, but not particularly memorable either.
I should say one of the aspects of this book that really makes it stand out is the fact that just about every one of the 10 stories features some of DC’s top-tier talent. Whether it’s the writer, artist or both, each story features work from strong creators. My impression of past holiday specials was that they offered material from newer talents refining their craft or essentially trying out for future projects with the publisher. Or that we were seeing some stock stories being brought out from storage to fill out the one-shot. Such is not the case here, especially when one considers the offbeat theme.
The first striking thing about the creative lineup is the fact that Mark (The Flintstones, Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles) Russell contributes the framing-sequence story (featuring Rip Hunter). As one might expect from him, it’s dripping with social satire, but that means its more comedic approach doesn’t really fit with the more reflective tone of the material it’s trying to thread together.
Yanick Paquette’s cover is lovely, encapsulating the dual themes of this anthology nicely. However, it seems ill-advised to feature characters on the cover that don’t factor into the stories found inside. Of those figures depicted, only Kamandi is spotlighted in one of the 10 stories. Including the highly popular Harley Quinn on the cover when she’s absent from the content within seems like a particularly big misstep.
Visually, there’s a lot to like about this book. Mike Norton’s cartooning suits the comedic tone of Russell’s framing satire, for example. Brad Walker’s pencil work on the Superman One Million story is detailed but stylistic, and all-around attractive, and Giuseppe Camuncoli boasts a style that seems perfect for Batman (regardless of which incarnation). Yasmine Putri’s name is a new one to me, but her aged version of a familiar character is striking, conveying a wisdom, determination and experience that sets her future self apart from the icon we know in “the present.”
It was also a pleasure to see the line art of Jerry Ordway and Scott Kolins on different stories that boasts a more traditional super-hero genre tone. The best story from an artwork perspective, had to be Phil Hester and Ande Parks’ Kamandi piece; while I’m not as interested in the character, their art grabbed my attention immediately.
The only segment featuring disappointing art was the Flash piece. The line art was visually stiff, and the style inconsistent. This stood out as one of those stories where tyro talent is trying out for the publisher. The writing was weak as well, as the point of the plot was far from apparent and seemed to run contrary to Flare lore that came before. Paul Dini’s Firestorm story was cute, but it felt like an adapted short from the Justice League Action show, where we’ve seen this pairing of Firestorm with the Nuclear Family as antagonists before.
Some of the stories also suffered from an accessibility problem. For example, Rip Hunter is still a rather obscure character, and adding to the potential confusion is how far removed from the comic-book incarnation is from the one we’ve seen on TV recently in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (though Rip now appears to be gone from that show these days). Furthermore, if one hasn’t read Grant Morrison’s run from Batman a few years ago, the appearance of Batman 666 in the second sequence might throw the audience.
Not surprisingly, I suppose, the stories featuring Kryptonian leads are the most heartening ones. Writer Steve Orlando does an excellent job of introducing the Superman One Million concept succinctly. The piece featuring another member of the Superman Family hinges on not knowing who the character is until the end of the story, and that surprise is spoiled in the index at the outset of the comic. (Fortunately, I’d forgotten about the index and was able to enjoy the revelation as it was intended.)
I imagine there was an editorial meeting at DC months ago in which someone joked about how instead of a winter holiday special, the publisher ought to put out a nuclear winter special. I suspect there was some laughter, and then some musing about merging the two concepts for something rather different and cute. And it is a cute idea — but it is 10 bucks’ worth of cute? Seeing these alternate versions of many DC icons was fun, but the reader isn’t left with a lasting impression from these stories. 6/10