Friday, December 11, 2020

DC's Very Merry Multiverse #1 Review


Ho! Ho! Hmm! 

Writers: Paul Scheer, Derek Fridolfs, Sholly Fisch, Ivan Cohen, Tom King, Thomas E. Sniegoski, Brittany Holzherr, Jay Baruchel, John Layman, David F. Walker, Nick Giovannetti
Artists: Dani Strips, Gustavo Duarte, Vanesa Del Rey, Steve Lieber, Eleonora Carlini, Dustin Nguyen, Keith Giffen
Cover Price: $9.99
Release Date: December 9, 2020

REVIEW BY: Gabriel Hernandez

DC’s Very Merry Multiverse, available from DC Comics on December 8th, is an irreverent anthology of Winter Holiday-themed shorts that take place on an assortment of Earths throughout the Multiverse. A small army of DC creators assembled to bring readers a little holiday cheer and slyly introduce some of the concept characters slated to debut in DC’s Future State in January… with mixed results.

Rather than taking a deep dive for each short story, we’ll give a brief synopsis of each plot, general impressions, and why we liked it or didn’t like it.

Harley Quinn in “IT’S A HORRIBLE LIFE!”

Writers: Paul Scheer, Nick Giovannetti
Artist: Steve Lieber
Colors: Marissa Louise
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual

Harley’s feeling the holiday blues and attempts to end it all when Sticky Joe comes along like an angel in training to guide her through the Multiverse and show her what the other Earths look like when Harley isn’t associated with the Joker. We later learn Sticky Joe is actually Layma, the long lost brother of the Wonder Twins, who are tasked with helping others as a way to help himself graduate to full angel. 

It’s fun to see bizarre and comedic takes on Harley and the usual cast of DC characters throughout the multiverse, but the jokes largely fall flat. You get the sense the writers were going for a form of self-deprecating satire ala Mad Magazine or Cracked but with limited success. In the end, Layma moves on to a better place, but it’s not quite clear if he truly was an angel or a crazy homeless person meeting a gory demise. Good art, wonky story. Merry Christmas? 


Writer: John Layman
Artist: Dani
Letters: Aditya Bidikar

In 1880’s England, Plastic Man plans a heist to rob the rich folks of Gotham of the Christmas toys they’ve collected for a charity event. During the getaway, Plastic Man is foiled by Batman but not before both are attacked by Mr. Freeze, intending to steal the haul for himself. Plastic Man defeats Mr. Freeze to keep the stolen goods for himself, inadvertently saving Batman and delivering toys to all the children of Gotham in an “explosive” way.

Obviously, this story takes its cues from Gotham by Gaslight, and Dani’s art is a very fitting homage to the grimy, fog-covered style from the original story. The story works in that Plastic Man is playing out his early characterization as a petty thief that can’t catch a break who eventually turns to the life of a hero. I’ll always enjoy this steampunk-esque version of Batman and the period take on Mr. Freeze in a 19th-century diving suit is fantastic. That said, I’m a stickler for plot holes, and it didn’t make sense to have Plastic Man in this era (origin included) when commercial plastic won’t be invented for at least another 30 years. It may seem like a minor quibble but once you see it, you can’t unsee it, and it takes you out of an otherwise entertaining story. Overall, this was very fun and very original.


Writer: Ivan Cohen
Artist: Eleanora Carlini
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Letters: Becca Carey

It’s New Year’s Eve and this Earth’s version of Starro, the Star-Conqueress, has invaded Gotham City to take over the Justice Guild and, eventually, the world. The newly formed Teen Justice steps up to combat the Star-Conqueress’ face-hugging stars and rescue the team before the clock strikes twelve.

Aside from the New Year’s Eve setting, there’s not much of a holiday story in this short. It’s your standard Justice League boss fight against Starro, with the team combining their strengths to find a clever way to free their friends and family from mind control. Plot-wise, there's nothing new or original here.

What is new is the introduction of several of the junior DC’s Future State characters in action. There are too many to name here, and that’s largely the down of this story. So much going on with so many introductions and twist characters we already know that it’s nigh impossible to keep it all straight. Kid Quick, Jesse Quick’s nibling (Yes, that’s a real word. I had to look it up), received the lion’s share of the attention as all the youngsters pitched in to save the day. Standard, boilerplate story with too much data dump all at once.

President Superman in “BIZARRO LOVE HOLIDAY”

Writer: David F. Walker
Artist: Gustavo Duarte
Colors: Marcelo Maiolo
Letters: Wes Abbott

President Superman invents a new holiday called the Celebration of Rapport as a two-day event to promote unity and empathy for the entire world. During this event, everyone symbolically gives away a piece of themselves and then receives a piece of someone else in the form of small, colored stones. Bizarro, never having received a gift in his life, acts as the surrogate Grinch of the story and tries to destroy the holiday. That is until a small child shows him the magic of giving and receiving.

Of all the stories in the anthology, this feels the most like a Christmas story due to the obvious “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” parallels. Even the art has a decidedly children’s book style to it from Gustavo Duarte. If you’re wanting a DC-themed holiday story that’s perfect for children and is not religion-specific, this story is the one to beat. It’s a simple, wholesome children’s story about the power of giving and receiving.

Batman Beyond in “HOLIDAYS BEYOND”

Writer: Derek Fridolfs
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Travis Lanham

Terry goes on a hunt for a very unique Christmas gift for Bruce, the recovery of the bat-sub lost in the ocean from a decades-old mission gone awry. Terry finds the bat-sub and begins the salvage operation when he’s mysteriously attacked. He wakes up on a journey through Christmas past, present, and future on Earths where there was/is/will be no Batman. Later, Terry wakes up to find he was hallucinating due to the bends after being attacked by Blight and escaping too quickly to the surface on his suit's auto-pilot.

Good story. Good art. Good “What if… “ scenarios for a world without a Batman. Fridolfs plays up the creepy factor of Dickens’ classic story by making Joker one of the three ghosts. It’s all well and good as a DC version of “A Christmas Carol,” but what gives this short some emotional weight is the unexpected scene at the end that reads like a mini memorial to Alfred. Bruce recounting a small story about Alfred and the sub was a bit of a tear-jerker, making this a far superior version of the classic Christmas tale than the earlier Harley story.

The League of Shadows in “NIGHT OF THE MAGI”

Writer: Sholly Fisch
Artist: Vanesa Del Rey
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Letters: Ferran Delgado

The League of Shadows aka alt-Justice League Dark are forced into an annual ritual of combat in celebration of Saturnalia by Lord of Misrule and Mother Destruction. During the battle, we’re led through a series of flashbacks to ancient Egypt that slowly reveals the origins of one of the League’s members, Ragman. The League eventually defeats the lesser gods but remain guarded because they may have to fight again in another year.

This is the Ragman origin story I didn’t know I needed. Steeping the entire flashback history in history and Jewish lore adds spiritual depth to Ragman’s penance over the centuries. He must atone for his sins, carried in the rags that cover his body. And this story completely works as a Biblical tale, wrapped in a superhero story, executed as a Greek (Roman?) tragedy. The art’s rough and sloppy. Very rough. But the super-strong story more than makes up for the visual flaws. This is easily the most soulful story of the entire book.

The Unjustice League of Unamerica in “HAVE YOURSELF A BIZARRO LITTLE CHRISTMAS”

Writer: Tom Sniegoski
Artist: Justin Mason
Colors: Chris O’Halloran
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual

Bizarro learns about giving and the Christmas spirit on Superman’s Earth and attempts to spread Christmas cheer on Bizarro world. After the most awkward gift exchanges you could imagine with members of the Unjustice League, Bizarro concedes that his Bizarro friends just don’t get it. Out of nowhere Zanta, from the Intergalactic Santa Corps, arrives to force Christmas cheer on Bizarro World’s population. Needless to say, things take a bizarre turn for Zanta.

The closest story I can think of this could be equated to is “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993). The leader of his community learns about the spirit of Christmas and tries to teach his compatriots all about it but fails miserably. In the end, the citizens come to a compromised understanding of the holiday after facing a larger threat. The character art is misshapen and clunky, which actually suits the story perfectly. I didn’t dislike the story, and the bizarro versions of Flash and Hawkman were amusing, but the overall story execution is just as clunky as the art.

Booster Gold in “TWAS THE NIGHT”

Writer: Brittany Hozherr
Artist: Todd Nauck
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Andworld Design

Booster Gold is called in to play host in his superhero-themed restaurant on Christmas Eve. While regaling the eaters with tall tales, Maxwell Lord barges into the restaurant and attacks Booster Gold and the restaurant to steal the priceless memorabilia displayed around the restaurant. The wait staff, dressed as cheap facsimiles of real superheroes, join forces to take Lord down and save the day. We later learn “Maxwell Lord” is an actor hired by Booster Gold to put on a show for the patrons, with the staff demonstrating what it means to be a real team.

This shot has the best art in the entire anthology. The colors are bold and eye-catching. And the Booster false bravado is right in line with the character we’ve come to know. The story is less about the holidays than it is about feeling like a b-list player. Booster knows that feeling all too well, and his surprising self-awareness about his public image leads him to give the wait staff the monetary gift of feeling like heroes in their own special moment. It's an uncharacteristic moment of sweetness from Booster that’s entirely welcome. Great story with exceptional art.


Writer: Jay Baruchel
Artist: Dominike “Domo” Stanton
Colors: Bryan Valenza
Letters: Ferran Delgado

Prez Rickard enters the stage as the host of a bizarre variety show featuring alternate versions of DC heroes as the headlining acts. The goal of the show is to spread the message of Pandar the Fallen who blesses good little children with his rainbow mouth auras or takes naughty children away to toil on his giant plague obelisk. The acts are on the same level of quality as the original Gong Show, and Pandar appears during the finale to bestow his blessing or exact his curse.

The art for this short is decent, but I honestly have no idea what’s going on with this story or why it’s here. Prez Rickard’s hasn’t been seen in any comic since a brief flashback in Sandman vol. 2 #54, and his entire persona is based on a charismatic politician for a hero. The story execution is like some psychedelic fever dream, and it left me with no feeling other than confusion. It’s an oddity for the anthology and nothing else.


Writer: Tom King
Artist: Scott Koblish
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Rob Steen

Lobo is on his way to an intergalactic zoo to visit some dolphins on a holiday field trip. Along the way, he runs afoul of Dominators who’ve taken control of the sector and ordered all animal preserves closed. Lobo does what Lobo does best and frags everything that gets in his way. Lobo visits the dolphins.

Tom King interlaces the mayhem with a retelling of the Hanukkah story, drawing parallels between Lobo’s rebellion against the Dominator’s to visit his aquatic friends and Judas’ rebellion to reclaim Judea. The actions of each story may be similar but the meaning is considerably different. Regardless, King wraps up the story with an overt message about the futility of separate religions when the human condition strives for the same universal wants and needs. The art from Scott Koblish is great and the story is a strong fan service that captures the essence of Lobo perfectly. The main story doesn’t quite sell the message about religion, but the main plot is strong enough to stand on its own.

Bits and Pieces

DC’s Very Merry Multiverse, available from DC Comics on December 8th, takes readers on a wild ride around the multiverse. Some stories are stronger than others. Some art is stronger than others. It’s a safe bet readers will like at least one or two stories in the bunch.


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