“Comfort and Joy”
By Owen K. Craig
Making an ideal Christmas special starring our favourite comic book characters is a tricky business. On the one hand you want to show the warmth, compassion, and charity that Christmas represents to all of us, but on the other hand you’re dealing with such iconic characters that you don’t want to undermine their importance with saccharine messages. Finding a balance between those two points is not easy, but the Justice League episode “Comfort and Joy” succeeds with flying colours.
Following three plotlines, “Comfort and Joy” focuses on what Christmas means to our beloved heroes. After saving an alien race from certain doom, Flash, Superman, Green Lantern, and Hawkgirl all go their separate ways for the holidays. Realizing that Martian Manhunter (also known as J’onn J’onnz) has no home to go to (being Martian after all), Superman invites J’onn to spend Christmas with his family. This plotline offers up two great ongoing bits: watching J’onn struggle to understand the excitement Superman feels is hilarious, as is watching Superman revert to a childlike state when he goes back to Smallville for Christmas:
Martha Kent: We used to wrap Clark’s presents in lead foil just so he couldn’t peek.
Clark: You mean SANTA wrapped them.
Meanwhile, Green Lantern wants to show Hawkgirl (from the planet Thanagar) why Christmas matters to him. This affords him the opportunity to do some classic winter flirting, in other words a snowball fight. This unconventional action scene has some great moments where we get to see these two use their powers for fun, as opposed to just saving the world. I’m especially fond of a moment where Hawkgirl thinks she’s won the fight, only to realize that Green Lantern’s ring is the Universe’s most powerful weapon, even in a snowball fight.
Flash visits an orphanage to spread some Christmas cheer to the kids. Asking them about the one present they want this season, he is amused to see it’s a toy called “DJ Rubba Ducky.” Watching a commercial for this flatulent toy, Flash can’t help but crack a smile. The moment of Flash laughing at the duck making farting noises, when any other hero of the League would roll their eyes, is so wonderfully in character for him and demonstrates what sets him aside from the rest of the heroes. This is exactly why Flash is my favourite. Unfortunately the toy is this season’s hot item and is tough for Flash to find. He gets the last one straight from the manufacturer in Japan. On his way home, however, he runs into the villain Ultra-Humanite (reason #14562 why I love comics: we get characters with names like Ultra-Humanite) who is trying to destroy some modern art that offends his aesthetic. In the ensuing battle the toy is destroyed, crushing the Flash’s spirits. Back in Smallville, the Kents are doing everything they can to make J’onn feel welcome. J’onn is touched when they offer him a sweater as a Christmas present, but feels guilty when he realizes that he has no gift to offer in exchange. Feeling like an outcast, J’onn disguises himself and walks about the small town to witness how much the season means to everyone. After losing the snowball fight, Hawkgirl challenges Green Lantern to come and witness how she likes to celebrate. He follows her to an alien planet where she starts a brawl between the rough crowd. After a long fight the duo fall asleep, snuggling up together in the arms of a giant monstrous creature who had attacked them earlier. Realizing that the whole bar was all tuckered out and had gotten all cozy together made me laugh. This plotline also sets up GL and Hawkgirl’s budding relationship in the next episode, I might add.
After waking up from an Ultra-Humanite punch (“you hit me first”), Flash realizes that the villain has taken pity on him and is fixing the toy. When asked why, Ultra-Humanite reveals that Flash’s words have touched him and he wanted to help. And not only has he fixed it, but he’s also “improved” it — now instead of making farting noises the duck tells the children the story of The Nutcracker. One of my favourite shots in the episode is the pair dressed up to visit the children. Personally, I would love a “Santa Flash” ornament for my tree. Finally, the episode shifts back to the Kent Farm, as Superman wakes up excitedly for Christmas. Literally leaping out of bed (hee) he hears a singing, only to realize that J’onn has taken on his Martian form and is celebrating the holidays by embracing who he is. Happily listening to the song Clark remarks to his parents, who have joined Clark to listen, “And he said he didn’t bring anything.” Seeing heroes in their downtime has always been a soft spot for me. I like to see what makes these people tick in between their moments of kicking butt. While there are certainly a lot of Christmas stories that don’t work, this is one that definitely does, at least for me. Hilarious and touching, this is one Christmas special that is a must-watch for me each holiday season.
Happy Holidays, readers! Let’s have one more shot of Santa Flash.