"Seasonís Beatings Justice League!"
Writer: Mike McAvennie
Artists: Sanford Greene (p), Nathan Massengill (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Justice League Unlimited #28 is easily among the top three issues of this series (in my book at least). Not only that, it is also my top favorite of comic book Christmas Specials for this year and among the top X-Mas Specials ever. Why? Well, let alone that it is light years ahead of last monthís "What were they thinking?" issue, it also has Wally West, Ralph Dibny and Ray Palmer in it, (all three of whom got the short end of the Identity/Infinite Crisis-stick in the mainline DCU, especially Wally who got shafted Speed-Force style). More than that, the story here also scores high on my personal "nostalgia scale." Having grown up watching the Batman: The Animated Series (and its sequel The New Batman Adventures), I have a very deep and soft spot for the character and story of the Gray Ghost. With a light yet touching story threading all these jewels together, it is easy to understand why I am going all ga-ga here. Oh, that it also has Batman in it, well, that just adds the central pendant to complete the festive necklace. (Donít worry, I am not looking to buy any jewelry anytime soon, not for anyone else and especially not for my personal usage.)
Kicking off with the obligatory Yule time hero-villain fight, the mission team of Batman, Flash, Elongated Man and Atom oppose Clay-Santa Claus-Face and his thieving elves. From Batmanís dressing down of Flash, or his camaraderie with the Atom or even Ralphís, uh, complements to Flash (ďIt canít be easy being the Fastest Man Alive when youíve got both feet in your mouthĒ), it is all here. Once the Phantom Stranger shows up to take Flash on a "journey," the story takes off on the spirit of the season. In a twist to the tale of the Scrooge (okay, only the Ghost of Christmas Past and the Ghost of Christmas Way-in-the-Past), Stranger takes Wally on a journey of revelations, revelations about a certain teammate, one whose favorite cartoon character was the Gray Ghost. (For more on the Gray Ghost and his inspiration to Batman, check out BTAS, Episode #18: "Beware of the Gray Ghost").
As funny sad as it is seeing Batmanís Christmas with the Kents (a stark difference from the way Jíonn Jonzzís experience turned out to be in the JL episode "Comfort and Joy"), it is the Christmas replay of young Bruce Wayne that is a real emotional-twister. In just a handful of pages, writer Mike McAvennie shows a side to the Bat that many other writers cannot do in a whole issue. What makes it all the more touching is Alfredís efforts at making young Bruce feel and live like a pre-teen child (as he appears to be) if only for a day and his own sorrow at being unable to do so.
Even if the family saving that Flash pulls off does seem a bit too convenient in how eerily it mirrorís the Waynesí, it ultimately leads to a happy ending for both Batman and the Flash (who I am sure did some serious fragging with his Playtendo 720).
Carlo Barberi is my favorite JLU artist. He is also the main artist of this title who has drawn almost twenty of the twenty-eight issues, including last yearís Christmas Special (issue #16: "Smashing Through the Snow!"). However, as much as I like Barberiís work, I donít think even he would be as suited to this story as the pencils of Sanford Greene (with inks by Nathan Massengill and colors by the regular colorist, Heroic Age). Not only does Greene inject his own quirkiness here, he does so while remaining close to the characters designs and mannerism from the cartoon series, right down to Supermanís super-large and Batmanís ultra-square chins.
Conclusion: I donít usually go in for the "Book of the Week" ranking/selection and even though I wonít be doing it this week either, I will say this: this is one issue that anyone and everyone will enjoy reading. One does not even need to be a regular comic reader or have a PHd (or even just an MS/MA) in the DC character history. From the youngest to the oldest of ages, this story is for all (just as all memorable ní lasting stories should be and are.)
You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net
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