Since this is our third Christmas here on the ISB, it’s probably become pretty apparent that I’ve got something of a soft spot for holiday specials. In fact, along with Abe Lincoln covers, Christmas comics are one of the few things that I’ll actually go out of my way to collect regardless of quality, which is why I’m the proud owner of both Dan Fraga’s Santa the Barbarian and the bottomlessly awful Warrior Christmas Special, by the ex-pro wrestler / lunatic of the same name.
But it’s not all bad, and it’s in that spirit that tonight, I’m throwing the spotlight onto what is, without question, my favorite Christmas comic of all time.
Is it the best holiday special? Well, that’s still up for debate, and for sheer beautiful storytelling, you’d be hard-pressed to beat Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano’s “Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot,” starring Deadman, from 1988’s Christmas With the Super-Heroes #2, which never fails to bring a tear to the eye on its annual reading. It’s fantastic, and if you don’t already own it, well, there’s still a couple of days left to experience it at the proper time of year.
But it’s not my favorite, and if this one’s not the best, it’s certainly a close second.
Coming from the pages of 2005’s Marvel Holiday Special–reprinted for your convenience in handy digest format–this story isn’t just my favorite Christmas comic, it’s my favorite Jeff Parker comic. And considering that that guy knocked out Agents of Atlas AND the best Avengers story ever in the same year, that’s saying something.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…
YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTRON!
And with a title like that, how could it not be awesome?
So here’s the rundown: It’s the Avengers’ annual Christmas party, and seeing as it takes place between the start of New Avengers and the beginning of Civil War, everybody who’s anybody (plus the eternal hanger-on that is Wonder Man) is in the house. Specifically, it’s Dr. Strange’s house, and despite the fact that everyone and their manservant are being total jerks to Greg “Gravity” Willis…
…the party’s in full swing, complete with radio-controlled mistletoe steered over Spider-Woman’s head so that she’s obligated by holiday tradition to make out with every single male member of the team in turn.
Man. Remember back when Iron Man used his powers for petty mischief and good-natured sexual harassment, before he embraced crypto-fascism as a means to solve his problems? Ah, the good ol’ days.
Also awesome: Luke Cage’s (Sweet) Christmas Sweater. Nothing more need be said about its wondrous majesty.
Meanwhile, across town, there’s a young woman named Virgie Hanlon–an electronics genius who had been emotionally traumatized when she was eight by classmates who told her there was no such thing as Santa Claus–has just finished working on a project of her own that will keep other children from experiencing such a horrible fate:
And right there is the moment this comic officially becomes awesome. But it only gets better from there.
Unfortunately, once Virgie activates her ersatz Kris Kringle, there’s a slight bug in the programming that she didn’t anticipate:
Thus, Robot Santa, complete with rocket-sled and holographic reindeer, sets off to kill the Avengers. This story could stop right here and be in the top ten holiday comics of all time, but Parker and Brown still have seventeen pages to rock.
Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for the cybernetic Father Christmas to track the Avengers down to the Sanctum Sanctorum and start blasting everyone with a neural disruptor, which is slightly more severe than getting a lump of coal in your sock. Of course, once Wolverine shows up to stab Santa Claus with his adamantium claws–thus proving that Canada holds nothing sacred–the truth is finally revealed, and the fact that we all probably figured it out from the story title alone doesn’t keep it from being awesome:
For you see, Santa… is actually Ultron, the megalomaniacal robot bent on genocide that has somehow yet to get Hank Pym booted out of the Avengers once and for all.
Thus, the Avengers throw down with their deadliest enemy in Dr. Strange’s living room–all while Aunt May is baking in the next room with Mary Jane and Jessica Jones–until Spider-Man figures out Santron’s one secret weakness…
…and once again, the day is saved… with SCIENCE!
Under normal circumstances, the story would end there, but once the heroes figure out what Virgie Hanlon was doing with one of Ultron’s bodies in the first place, they find her, stop her from turning herself into the police, and bring her to the party. And that’s where this story truly becomes great
Virgie’s pretty bummed out by the fact that she was brainwashed by an evil robot that took advantage of her childlike faith in Santa Claus, and ask if the Avengers think she’s nuts for holding onto the idea for so many years. And what follows is a sequence that, well, you probably oughtta just read for yourselves:
Oh man. You guys’ll have to excuse me for a minute, it’s… uh… a little dusty in here.
Merry Christmas, everybody!