Welcome, or welcome back, to Read Pile, where I, Keigen Rea, and hopefully a large, ever-growing mass of individuals will be, as EIC Dave Shevlin put it, “reducing our read piles to read piles,” and writing about those books, one at a time.
This Read Pile is by none other than the EIC of Comfort Food Comics himself, Dave “The Wonderful” Shevlin, without whom this column would not exist. Dave is, of course, the person who runs this very site, where good writers and myself get to have a place to squeal about comics, and it is lovely. If you are reading this, you can thank him, obviously. And also invite him on your podcast! That’d be rad.
Read Pile welcomes me, the CFC creator, Dave Shevlin!! I’m thrilled to be a part of Keigen’s amazing idea for a series. Normally, I’d be here to finally read one of the hundred books I have waiting for me to open them up, but it’s December and December is the time for Christmas Comics. My pick for this Read Pile is DC’s 2019 Holiday Special – New Year’s Evil.
This has been sitting on top of my long boxes since January of this year just waiting to be opened and enjoyed. I COMPLETELY missed this one last year amidst all the Holiday hustle & bustle. I can remember buying it the first week of January 2020. Me and my wife went to the eye doctor to get her new lenses for her glasses and my local shop is located on the same street. I decided to stop in to show her the place I kept going to that she kept asking to see. I picked up my pull list and grabbed this one too. Only problem was it was already past Christmas and the New Year’s time. I’m a man that hates indulging in Holiday media out of season so I promptly threw it to the top of the read pile. Everytime I’d go into my nerd comic room, there was Joker in his Santa suit sitting there, whispering to me “Christmas is almost here!”. And now with a week until Christmas Eve, it’s time to use this great column to hit that Holiday high. Join me as I briefly give my thoughts on every story included within this anthology. Here is the list of stories and creators:
This first story about the Joker is pretty great. Amateur “Steve” fakes being the Joker to sow chaos on New Year’s Eve, which causes the annoyed ire of Joker to rain down on him. Married creators Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman give the Joker PEAK characterization here. It’s how I’d like him to always be written, as a crime boss with a dash of silly playfulness and arrogance rather than a psychopath. sure, he still kills Steve at the end, but it’s because he dared try to steal the Joker’s act!! Only hack comedians would do such a thing! Matt Hollingsworth is the real MVP here with a stunning palette of colors that pop while also giving it the subtle, dark moodiness the story deserves.
This next tale is an AMAZING love letter to the late 90’s toyline Total Justice, a series of figures extremely near and dear to me personally. Villalobos does a pitch perfect homage of them as giant Toyman robot villains and in the fake “Toyman Justice” cardbacks. All the art is fantastic and Kenny Porter writes a wonderful Clark and Lois. I’m shocked how much I love this. What a story!
The next Sinestro story is impossible not to read with the context of writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson as an active duty soldier who has been in the army for the past 15 years. It’s just Sinestro as an analogue for him as an American soldier overseas helping the “feral” foreigners and them not respecting him right. I was waiting for Sinestro to shout “Hooah!” Pretty terrible and a shame as Kumar’s art is always nice.
Jesus, what even was this Poison Ivy story?!? A really gross, edgy mess from start to finish. The only part I liked was Pam voicing her anger at people cutting down real Christmas Trees for a month’s enjoyment, something I vociferously agree with!
The Wonder Woman tale was well done but I greatly tire of Ares and the constant Olympian Gods angle to Wonder Woman. It’s always better as just a seasoning or side then the main dish, and this is a deep dish Ares pizza here. Gabriela Downie’s lettering here is terrible. Every word balloon for Wondey took me right out of the story. It’s a shame, but I have seen quality work from her lately so it’s nice to see improvement there.
I should’ve known the Ram V story would be phenomenal!! This easily rockets into contention as the best Black Adam story of all time. Seeing him care for the young citizens of his land, stopping by to literally give a little girl a shoulder to cry on as she wishes for Santa Claus to visit Kahndaq. Black Adam won’t stand for such an affront and finds his way into the ancient sealed away magic city of Myra where he does battle with the wizard N’Klaus and tells him he better make sure to deliver gifts to all the children of Kahndaq from now on. It’s such a silly, heartwarming tale that is played with absolute sincerity that just hits on every front so well.
The Calendar Man story is just a twisted, fun romp by underrated heavyweight Christos Gage. It’s always fortunate when some of the underutilized Batman rogues get some play so I was all in on this one.
We get a stunning Chronos tale about the time traveling villain attempting over and over again to fix his father and make him love him so he doesn’t grow up to be what he is. It’s a powerfully moving story that dips into dark territory but really punches you in the gut in a really satisfying way. Really shows what emotional depths and creativity you can get to with a master of time as your protagonist.
Next is the all star team of Busiek/Eaglesham doing a Prankster story that has a very fun little twist to it that you don’t see coming at first until Jimmy Olsen drops in. It’s everything you’d expect from a Busiek story, giving so much “regular person” personality to Prankster, but more importantly his support staff, who get most of the spotlight here. I am always here for giving the D-Listers and the people who, for whatever reason, work for them.
The Renee Montoya/Harley Quinn story is a true delight from start to finish. Vita packs so much deep characterization into both characters in such a limited page count it really is impressive. You identify with and care so much about both of them. Elena Casagrande’s art is so visually appealing with some of the most dynamic and animated facial expressions I’ve ever seen. Jordie Bellaire’s GOAT level coloring of course only enhances the art to the next level. Letterer Dave Sharpe makes Harley’s word balloons explode with huge red and blue shouting exclamations that really add so so much to her unique style of speech. It’s always so awesome to see the letterer contribute to the storytelling in such a profound manner.
And that wraps up the entire issue. I really enjoyed my Holiday read through of this one and it was so worth it waiting until seasonally appropriate to check this one off the list. Overall, this was one of the strongest anthologies DC has put out these past couple years. I strongly recommend you pick it up in between watching Jingle All The Way and drinking some spiked eggnog.
After you’ve invited Dave on your podcast, come write a Read Pile! We’d love to have you here, and then maybe you can write something else for CFC too. Hit me up (@prince_organa will be the best way to get me) and we’ll figure out a time for your Read Pile article!
Next time will come out on the first day of 2021, with writer Austin Shinn (https://twitter.com/untitleduser?s=21) writing something about Superman! See you then!