Review – DC’s Nuclear Winter Special: Merry Apocalypse!

Reading Time: 5 minutes
DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 cover, via DC Comics.

DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 – Mark Russell, Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, Steve Orlando, Jeff Loveness, Tom Taylor, Mairghread Scott, Paul Dini, Phil Hester, Cecil Castellucci, Dave Weilgosz, Writers; Mike Norton, Christian Duce, Dexter Soy, Jerry Ordway, Amancay Nahuelpan, Scott Kolins, Artists; Giuseppe Camuncoli, Brad Walker, Phil Hester, Pencillers; Tom Derenick, Breakdowns; Yasmine Putri, Lineart; Cam Smith, Drew Hennessy, Ande Parks, Inkers; Hi-Fi, Romulo Fajadro Jr, Nathan Fairbairn, Yasmine Putri, Veronica Gandini, Dave McCaig, Trish Mulvihikll, Brian Buccellato, John Kalisz, Colorists

Ratings:

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Terrific Anthology. (And more hopeful than the title makes it sound.)

Ray: There have been some downright odd holiday specials over the years, but few weirder than DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1. This strange post-apocalyptic anthology continues DC’s trend of seasonal anthologies and is another strong installment in a great year. But it takes time to even sort out what the theme is here.

Corrina: I had no idea what to expect from these stories. But, to give it away, they’re all holiday stories, filled without more sentiment than would be expected in something with “Nuclear Winter” in the title. Like most great superhero stories, they’re about finding hope amidst devastation.

Ray: Unlike the other anthologies, this one has a framing segment – a Rip Hunter story by Mark Russell and Mike Norton, it focuses on Rip getting stranded in a post-apocalyptic Mad Max hellscape, where he has to keep a band of warriors from eating him by telling them a series of stories to buy him time for his timesphere to charge. There are some funny Russel-esque political references in here, but this is a pretty straightforward homage to One Thousand and One Nights.

Corrina: The framing story is a bit…off-kilter, tone-wise, given the setup is that the crowd wants to eat Rip, not because they’re bad people, overall, but because they’re just that hungry and he’s a stranger. (One assumes since they’re not eating each other that people are only for eating if they’re strangers.) Otherwise, the crowd seems nice enough.

Ray: Unfortunately, the main event kicks off with the weakest story of the lot, a Batman 666 tale by Lanzing, Kelly, and Camuncoli. Nothing’s specifically wrong here, it’s just a fairly bland and violent tale of an older Damian and Ra’s Al Ghul undertaking their annual Christmas battle. Never was a big fan of this version of Damian.

Corrina: I’m not that fond of the premise, that Damian basically caused the apocalypse, but the interplay between Damian and his grandfather has some darkly humorous moments, even while Damian is being spitted on a sword. And it ends with a note of hope. Sorta. As much as there can be.

Ray: Things get much stronger with Steve Orlando and Brad Walker’s Superman One Million tale. While it’s technically a story of the Superman from the far future, you don’t need to know much about him – it’s as much a story of Martian Manhunter, revealing a life from his past we didn’t know about where he was a kindly neighbor in Smallville and his bond with Clark began.

Corrina: What a terrific use of the Martian Manhunter’s past and future. I’d never thought of him as being present as Clark’s friend during childhood but it fits so well into his character, as does his transformation in the future and his friendship with the future Superman. Lovely tale.

Ray: Jeff Loveness’ and Christian Duce’s Flash story is an odd one, as it’s not really a post-apocalyptic one – it involves Flash sacrificing himself during a particularly destructive battle and slowly coming to terms with his fate, looking in on the life he left behind and moving on. It’s strong, but maybe not a perfect fit for theme.

Corrina: I thought it fit, as it was the Flash saving those he loves and his planet from the apocalypse, and how he found hope even while trapped in the weird post-death area. You could read it as some sort of Purgatory but, Flash, ever the scientist, read it as a challenge.

Supergirl story. Via DC Comics.

Ray: The same can’t be said for Tom Taylor, Tom Derenick, and Yasmine Putri’s Supergirl story, worth the price of admission alone. A brilliant tale of an aging Kara Zor-El wading through a nuclear wasteland to try to get one of the last living children of Earth to safety, it begs the question – why isn’t DC letting Taylor write an ongoing Superman title yet?

Corrina: YES. This story is yet more proof that Taylor needs to write some sort of Super-Family title. As for the ending to this, the call back to Kara’s original flight to Earth, it’s a brilliant twist.

Ray: I was also a fan of Mairghread Scott and Dexter Soy’s haunting Aquaman tale, as Arthur heads into nuclear-scarred oceans to try to find the last semblance of non-irradiated life in a post-war world.

Corrina: Aquaman’s internal monologue here, about not hearing the “music” or sounds of the ocean any longer is haunting, which made his discovery at the end so lovely.

Ray: Paul Dini and Jerry Ordway’s Firestorm tale is a fascinating look at what would be left after the end – namely, the non-human heroes and villains. Firestorm finds his old enemies, the Nuclear Family, still living out their pretend existence in a dying world, and what follows is a poignant and disturbing tale reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s famous “There Shall Come Soft Rains”.

Corrina: Is this a callback to the family in DisneyWorld’s Carousel of Progress? It reads that way, though DC history seems to indicate their origin is different from that. Still, the story calls out to them as “relics” of the 20th Century, and that resonates in many ways. A great deal of depth for a very short story.

Kamandi story. Via DC Comics.

Ray: Phil Hester does double duty on writing and art with a Kamandi story, and this one’s an interesting one as I’m not sure if it fits the theme or not. Kamandi’s always post-apocalyptic! But this saga of him finding new allies and fighting a mad bear tyrant is a perfect tribute to the classic Kirby property.

Corrina: A good Kamandi story is always welcome, and this one seems to be more apocalyptic than most, given the setting at the top of the world. The bear who is at the center of the prophecy does seem quite Christ-like.

Ray: Cecil Castellucci and Amancay Nahuelpan deliver a strong Catwoman tale as Selina shepherds Holly Robinson’s teenage daughter through a blockaded Gotham and slips back into her role as a defender of the disenfranchised.

Corrina: When we last saw Holly in continuity, she was betraying Selina and had committed mass murder. In this tale, which I’d expect to be darker, it seems that Holly always remained Selina’s friend, and became a beloved mother. I like that better than current Holly. And, of course, with a little prodding, Selina remembers she does care about people, even while protecting her own.

Catwoman story. Via DC Comics. Gotham looks almost too pretty to be apocalyptic.

Ray: The final story, by Dave Wielgosz and Scott Kolins, takes place in the far future with an aging Justice League and reunites Green Arrow and Black Canary after decades apart. You have to be a fan of this couple, but it works for both of them.

Corrina: I guess Green Arrow is stuck in his cantankerous self, even after all these years. It was an interesting look at what would happen if he let his bitterness overtake his friendships. Still, given that talking to Dinah changes his attitude a bit, maybe the message is that one is never too old for friendship.

Ray: After a last funny Rip Hunter stinger, you’re on your way and another DC anthology goes in the book as a great success.

Corrina: And to all, a good night!

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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