Power Man and Iron Fist Annual: Sweet Christmas
Writer: David F. Walker
Artist: Scott Hepburn
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
C. Artist: Jamal Campbell
Editors: Jake Thomas & Kathleen Wisneski
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Coming When I Am Needed Most, Like When A Child Calls Out For Something They Truly Need: ‘Tis the Christmas Season, and global video game phenomenon SCHNUCKIES is launching their first ever toy line. First you could capture and raise them to be your best bud in virtual reality, but now you can hold a SCHNUCKIE in your hands and love them forever. So be sure to buy yourself a SCHNUCKIE and buy one for your loved ones too, exclusively at TOYVERSE.’ Gustav Silbe©
Luke Cage and Danny Rand find themselves in line at Toyverse on Christmas Eve, thanks to Danny getting Danielle Cage addicted to the Schnuckie phenomenon sweeping the nation. Once they make it inside, Danny runs off with Dani to find a Schnuckie, leaving Luke alone for a few blissful moments until Jessica Drew arrives, with a screaming Gerry Drew in tow. Luke helps Jessica calm her child while reassuring Jess that she is a good parent.
As this happens, Daimon Hellstrom arrives to confront Gustav Silbe, who is actually the spirit consuming Krampus in disguise. The Krampus brings his soul sucking Schnuckies to life, forcing Daimon to team up with Luke, Danny, and Jessica to prevent a demonic takeover of Earth. They fight their way through Toyverse, which contains a portal to Krampus’s portion of Hell. They venture into Hell, where Daimon is quickly taken out of action. When all hope seems lost, Saint Nicholas, defender of children, arrives. He buys Luke and Danny an opening, allowing them to take down the Krampus.
Saint Nicholas thanks them for their aid, warning them about the danger of becoming disconnected from one another through technology. He tells them love is the only thing that will keep the Krampus trapped in Hell, but so long as there are always parents who will love and protect the children of the world there is always hope. With that, Saint Nicholas takes off and the Cage family wishes everyone a Sweet Christmas.
Damn, Little Man Sounds Like Angar The Screamer: Sweet Christmas, this is one damn fine comic. Series writer, David F. Walker is joined by artist, Scott Hepburn and colorist, Matt Milla for this joyous comic filled to the brim with superheroics, morals, cameos, and parenting shenanigans. This annual also reflects the current ongoings of several comics outside of Power Man and Iron Fist. Whether it is the omission of Jessica Jones because of things going on in her own comic, or Jessica Drew’s need for Luke Cage’s help after the loss of Roger Gocking in her own series, everything has rhyme and reason which is nice to see.
This issue is largely new reader friendly, with subtle references to things in Luke and Danny’s past that never stops the story to deliver exposition. Highlights from the main series, like Danny’s childlike intentions and Luke’s creative non-cursive curse words, make into the issue as well; my favourite Cageism is ‘Mother-knick-knack-patty-whacks’ but the moment Danielle Cage uses Luke’s ‘fiddle-faddle’ line might just be the best moment in the comic.
Walker does seem to have a specific audience in mind though; new parents. This is largely where my girl, Jessica Drew, comes in. And while Walker’s new parenting shenanigans are a bit more extreme than Dennis Hopeless’ stuff in Spider-Woman (Gerry pees in Jessica’s mouth/eye) it is no less fun. Having a more experienced Luke to bounce Jess off of as she loses her fiddle-faddle is a nice touch. Luke referencing Gerry to Marvel super villains is a nice touch as well. And as the comic takes a detour into Parentville with Luke and Jessica, Walker and Hepburn keep the main story moving with a couple sixteen panel pages that follows three sets of characters. This is a densely packed story, well worth your five dollars and fifteen to twenty minutes of your time.
The real star of this issue is Danny Rand. Despite usually being the joke character of the series, Danny steps up big time this issue. He comes up with all the plans, works with the adults in Toyverse to protect the children, and is an absolutely wonderful uncle to Danielle; guess he earns the fact she is named after him. The fact Danny has a custom Iron Fist balaclava that he wears as a toque is a wonderful little detail in a comic full of them.
Visually, all our heroes wear winter outfits that contain homages to their costumes; Jessica’s gloves, Danny’s balaclava, Luke’s puffy yellow jacket, even Danielle is wearing her mother’s colors. Matt Milla brings this issue to life, with bombastic colors that leap off the page. He rarely uses white backdrops and even then he usually does it to highlight the colorful tour-de-force that is our main cast. Still, there is a few lazy backdrops here and there.
Scott Hepburn is a wonderful choice for this Christmas special. His art is reminiscent of the series’ main artist, Sanford Greene, with greatly exaggerated figures who break free of of their panel’s confines. His women are drawn notably poorer than the males, but his side profiles are a lot stronger than when he draws them from the front. I love his use of veiny arms to indicate strength, but also subtle details like bags under the eyes of Luke and Jessica. There are some fun background shenanigans and cameos as well, including our boy Spidey. He gives each protagonist a distinct fighting style, which helps make the chaotic battles full of exploding Schnuckies easy to follow. Jessica blasts her way through enemies, while Danny leaps all over the page kicking ass, and Daimon ignites the panel into flames. And then there is Luke, just choking out demons left and right.
The Krampus and Saint Nicholas bring a lot of that Sweet Christmas to the book, but also serve as personifications of the book’s agenda. This comic, while not subtle, is a platform to attack Consumerism and the dangers of becoming disconnected from one another through modern technology. Santa Claus is a weird choice to attack this with, as he is literally the embodiment of Consumerism, but Walker cleverly reinvents him as Saint Nicholas, protector of children. Making him a ‘DEFENDER’ of children makes him a better part of the Luke/Jessica/Danny trio than Daimon. While this book has an agenda, it is more about love and joy than attacking Eurocentrism which makes it work.
Verdict: This is my favourite Christmas comic and I would love if people went out and bought a copy, because it leaves itself open for future Christmas annuals. It is an action packed, thoughtful comic that is joyously stuffed and has a strong moral message to boot. I have no problems with comics having agendas, because stories need a reason to be told. I take issue when the authors take no effort to conceal agendas, like last week’s Spider-Gwen #15 or every Nick Spencer comic. Between the joyous fun and clever inversion of Santa Claus here, and the thoughtful introspection and characterization of Occupy Avengers, David F. Walker is quickly becoming one of my favourite agenda writers. This comic has some target audiences, but it really just wants to make everyone feel good and be a little more loving. And that makes it one Sweet Christmas gift.
- Chaotic but thoughtful action
- Visual and verbal homages to characters
- Strong message of love
- Excellent use of Jessica Drew cameo
- Reflects current state of characters
- Some weak spots in art and colors