This year's DC Holiday Special contains another collection of short, festive holiday-themed tales featuring an array of characters from across DC's Universe, told by some of the top creators from the publisher including Tom King, Shea Fontana, Denny O'Neill, Jeff Lemire, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Steve Epting, Phil Hester, Joshua Williamson, Neil Googe, Christopher Priest, Greg Rucka, Francesco Francavilla, Dan Didio, Bilquis Evely, and so many more.
The collection starts with the first half of a framing story set in the Ace of Clubs Bar in Metropolis, where a drunken and belligerent John Constantine and a dour, forlorn Superman sit together. Both complain and fear the seeming futility of doing good in a dark and troubled world that seems to constantly continue down a dark path, no matter what they do.
Constantine is sold into the idea of the general idea that humanity will always cave to its basest instincts, and the dark never has an end. Superman, for his part, worries he may be right, given no matter how many people he saves and how many disasters he averts, there is always another. It's natural then that the TVs in the background in the comic's second panel show Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, two "leaders" who have made many feel fearful for tomorrow. And when the nights are long and the days short and cold, this time of year can feel the darkness most of all.
And it's worse for those with no family to share their Holiday Season with.
Thematically, then, this frames the nature of the DC Holiday Special this year, too. The majority of the stories revolve around how this time of year (or life in general) can feel oppressively dark, but there is always that spark of hope we can find at this time of year, too — in our friends, our families, and the notion of doing the right thing for one another and coming together in peace.
It makes sense, then, that the framing device centres around those two polar opposite characters in the DC Universe — one that epitomises the light and brightness, the other one of the publisher's darkest characters at times.
However, there are a couple of the stories that miss this a little: these tales get a little too wrapped up in the dark, and the light of hope doesn't manage to shine through them. Tales about Swamp Thing, Sgt. Rock, and Batman never really get that moment of light in them, and ultimately feel locked in the dark.
However, the rest work well, ranging from sweet to hopeful, to an outright powerful entry from Rucka and Evely (starring Wonder Woman and Batman).
Ultimately, the DC Holiday Special 2017 makes for a strong annual or festive tales for those looking for a little bit of hope and cheer in a dark and troubled year.