Another Christmas, another Winter Special! DC has stepped up its game this year giving us not any Winter Special, but a Nuclear Winter Special! In the Mid 21st century, the Earth has been covered by everlasting Winter from nuclear fallout. Our superheroes are not fairing so well in this dystopian world where every man, women, and child is struggling for survival. The Nuclear Winter Special is composed of 10 short stories of characters such as Supergirl, Batman, The Flash, and Aquaman living in this hellscape. All of these stories are tied together by the story of Rip Hunter, a time-traveler. Although these stories might seem a bit dreary for a Holiday Special, many of them radiate with the Holiday spirit.
For a Holiday Special, Mark Russel did a great job tying in all the stories together through Rip Hunter’s time travel stories. Our first story takes us through a cinematic journey through a snow covered and destroyed cityscape where Damien Wayne is Batman. What would the holidays be without family? So, of course, Damien encounters his grandfather, Ra's al Ghul. The story starts strong but peters off toward the end. We also get a holiday tale of Superman One Million. It ends with a nice touching moment, but the storytelling is a bit choppy. There’s a melancholic Flash story, which is the biggest miss of the issue for me. It doesn’t capture the holiday mood or advance the nuclear fallout aesthetic or plot. The biggest plot advancement of the issue is the Aquaman story, “Where the Light Cannot Reach”. Aquaman is sent on a mission to find a substance in the ocean that may hold the key to fighting back radiation and restoring Earth back to normal. Unlike the other stories in the book, this one ends on a cliffhanger that we can only assume is setting up a Nuclear Winter Special #2.
There are a few more great stories inside the Nuclear Winter Special, including one with Supergirl that has a surprise twist at the end. I was a bit disappointed when I saw one of the stories was about Firestorm, a character that doesn’t excite me too much. How wrong I was. His issue ended up being the best of the book by far. It’s written by Paul Dini and drawn by Jerry Ordway. Firestorm in "Last Christmas" tells the story of the Nuclear Family, a family of androids, celebrating their last Christmas before their batteries run dry.
The short story that gives us the greatest insight into the nuclear winter world is Catwoman in “Nine Lives”, written by Cecil Castellucci and drawn by Amancay Nahuelpan. We are taken to Gotham City after the initial nuclear fallout. Ever dwindling rations are dispersed to citizens starving for food. Catwoman has the choice of stealing rare and valuable Egyptian artifacts, but instead choose first aid and ration supplies to give as a Christmas gift to the citizens of Gotham.
DC’s Nuclear Winter Special is well worth the $9.99 cover price. It has a few touching stories perfect for the holiday season. The nuclear winter and time traveling thematic added some spice to the typical Winter Special setting. Other than a few misses, the majority of the stories are fantastic and better than most annuals and specials.