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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas Special: A Marvel Comics Christmas, Part One

Last week, I was in K-Mart looking for some Martha Stewart brand "First Snowfall" wrapping paper that matched my tree decorations--thus proving that yes, I may actually be a woman--when the store's music suddenly switched from "Frosty the Snowman" to Inner Circle's "Bad Boys."

Now while I suppose you could make the argument that "Bad Boys" shares a similar message with, say, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," it's a little disconcerting when you're expecting a jolly holiday tune and you get the theme from COPS instead.

That's exactly what reading Marvel Team-Up #127 is like.

"Small Miracles"
December, 1982
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Pencils: Kerry Gammil
Cover: Ed Hannigan and Al Milgrom

You know, I don't think I ask for much from a Christmas special. A bit of holiday cheer, a nice message of forgiveness and redemption, and an appearance by Santa Claus, that's all I really want. At the very least, I'd like it to not revolve around a drug-related homicide.

Apparently J.M. DeMatteis doesn't share my feelings on that particular matter. Here's how it all goes a-wassailing: Spider-Man webs his way over to Queens for the Christmas party at Aunt May's, which at the time served as a boarding house for a bunch of swingin' seniors. Everybody's having a good time, even Sophie and Martha, the Blanche Devereaux-esque spinsters who ambush Peter Parker with mistletoe--which apparently is enough of his danger to tingle his spider-sense, and that's not a metaphor. Everyone, that is, except for Mr. Chekov, a beret-sporting poet who's usually a lot more lively. Peter, being the kind of swell guy he is, asks what's wrong, and we find out that Mr. C hasn't seen his granddaughter Bette in a few years, and was hoping she'd swing by.

Peter offers his sympathies, but then gets a spider-sense buzz that isn't related to post-menopausal smooching and darts outside, where he finds himself suddenly caught in a blizzard and changed into his Spider-Man outfit. Things finally clear up, and he finds himself face-to-face with the Watcher.

Pay attention, speculators: This is apparently their first meeting, since Spider-Man has no idea who the twelve foot tall bald guy in the toga is, or what he's doing in the middle of the street in Queens. To be fair, though, Uatu doesn't go out of his way to explain himself--in fact, he doesn't say a thing, and just hands Spidey a strange jewel that shows him a picture of Bette Chekov before disappearing back to the Moon.

Spidey, naturally, gets a Bad Feeling About This™ and swings off to Brooklyn, leaving the Watcher to do what he does best and watch Bette stumble around half-dead in the snow. And he seems pretty excited about the prospect of her crawling down a New York street and possibly dying. But hey, that's just how he rolls.

After checking the phone book and having more of a team-up with Directory Assistance than he does with the Watcher, Spidey runs across a murder at Bette's apartment that involves a few kilos of cocaine, and gets pretty bummed out about it. Captain America shows up to cheer him up a little, but then he remembers that his team-up isn't scheduled until next month, so he leaves Spider-Man to follow the Watcher's Magic 8 Ball to a bar, where he hassles Joe Face for information.

Joe Face, from what I've been able to gather, is sort of the DeMatteis equivalent of Turk from Frank Miller's Daredevil run, the low-rent thug that the hero can safely smack around whenever information is required. His funeral, in fact, is what kicks off DeMatteis and Mike Zeck's Kraven's Last Hunt a few years later. Unfortunately, he doesn't have anything to tell Spidey, so Our Hero leaves him stuck to the wall and walks out, whereupon he hears sounds of a struggle from up above, dashing through the window just in time to save Bette from being stabbed to death by her dealer.

And the Christmas Cheer keeps on coming. Bette, freaked out and jonesing for a fix of the H, dashes out into the alley where she dops her bags of stolen cocaine and is promptly gut-shot by a gangster and left to bleed out in the snow.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Everything works out relatively okay, though: The Watcher shows up in the alley and receives a stern talking-to from Spider-Man about being a manipulative jerk, and he somehow uses his Magic Jewel to keep Bette from dying while Spidey carts her off to a hospital, and Mr. Chekov spends his holidays at the bedside of his recovering heroin addict daughter, and somehow I fail to become cheered up at all.

I mean really, now. It's not like I was expecting a story where Spider-Man has trouble picking out the perfect present for Aunt May and Mary Jane, so the Watcher decides that one day out of the year, he can interfere to help Spidey bring a little joy into the lives of the people closest to him--although holy crap that would be a great Christmas comic--but when it says "Special Christmas Issue" right on the cover, I'd like something that wasn't quite so full of cocaine and soul-crushing despair.

J.M. DeMatteis, you're getting coal this year. Right, Tiny Cap?

Not in this one it ain't.
Fortunately, that wasn't the only foray into the world of the Holday Special that the House of Ideas ever made... And the other one I found might just be enough to make up for it.

Next: The Thing! Ghost Rider! Jesus of Nazareth! The titanic team-up we just had to call O Holy Fight!

More ISB Boughs of Holly: Ant Man's Big Christmas | Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #17 | Santa Saves the DC Universe! | The Worst Christmas Song Ever


Blogger Ragnell said...

The Thing, Ghost Rider, and Jesus of Nazareth...

I'm very afraid to read the next installment.

12/18/2005 7:39 PM


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