Writers: Gerry Duggan & Brian Posehn
Artists: Rick Remender (p), Hilary Barta (i), Michelle Madsen (colors)
Publisher: Image Comics
The little kid in me spoke up a great deal as I read the first two issues of the Last Christmas. Granted, Iíve seen Bad Santa, so I know it can be very funny to portray Santa as a foul-mouthed cretin with no morals. But, Bad Santa was about a fake Santa, and Last Christmas has to do with the real one (or as real as the Spirit of Christmas gets). Needless to say, portraying Santa as a suicidal shut-in who gives his elves the bird while downing a bottle of rum does not make for an engrossing read. Who am I rooting for here? Even humor comics should have a hero! I kept thinking about how this issue reminded me of another Image title currently on the shelves: Robert Kirkmanís Battle Pope. Both titles take beloved icons and convert them into truly unsavory people with character flaws that consume their entire personas. Granted, Battle Pope aims for shock value, whereas Last Christmas is seeking offbeat laughs. This important difference makes Last Christmas a better comic book in comparison, but still doesnít make for the kind of humor comic that sends fans racing to the comic shop. In fact, much of Issue #2 is a hit and miss affair.
I think the main reason behind this issueís misses is the slow movement of the actual storyline. In a nutshell, this issue consists of Santa getting drunk and trying to commit suicide (as in the last issue), Santa going after the last kid on earth who believes in him, and finding this kid. Thatís pretty much it, besides the revelation that Santa cannot kill himself while there are kids who believe in him, which could be inferred by clues in Issue #1. Granted, itís a good premise for a comedy comic, but not the best one Iíve ever heard of, and has me wondering whether this series will have enough steam for a good five issue run. Plus, the graphic violence and gross-out panels that pepper this whole issue gives the whole presentation a reek that is not inviting as a humorous comic book should be. I loved Brian Posehnís stint on Mr. Show (one of my all-time favorite shows), but Last Christmas is missing a lot of the laugh-out-loud gags that made that show, and good humor comics, great. As for Gerry Duggan, Iíve never heard of him before this, and I donít know about his comic or comedy background. Regardless, the collaborative writing of the two men yields an overall comic that lacks many of the essentials for success: solid pacing, integrity of tone, and the effort to build a trusting relationship with the readers. Sometimes, when writers try to cross a tried-and-true comic book element with a fairly original idea, the overall effect is uneven, and that is the problem with Last Christmas. The splattering blood of zombies and the bumbling drunkenness of Santa Claus just donít mix that well (The page with a bazooka taking out a reindeer really illustrates this. Yuck!). I am not such a stick in the mud to say that I didnít chuckle at least once reading Issue #2, but the overall effect didnít have me wanting more.
As for the artwork, the illustrations are pretty effective, as Rick Remender puts away his typewriter and picks up his pencil for this limited series. His drawings of snowmen and walking dead are equally solid, and the inking by Hilary Barta is smoothly incorporated into some of the frightening close-ups of Santa. The art is not spectacular, but it does give the issue a feeling of quality which is exacerbated by the wonderful coloring of Michelle Madsen, whose work I have always enjoyed. Yes, believe it or not, there are elements of Last Christmas I did like! Why else would I give it a moderate grade? I also liked Gary the Snowman and his grammatically-incorrect narration, which should have highlighted the fairy tale nature of the story. Instead, his appearances were a stark reminder of what could have been with the first two issues of Last Christmas, illustrating the need for atmosphere instead of simple bathroom humor and undead guts.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!