Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Eighth Day of Comic-mas: Milking What Makes a Hero

What if you could get super powers for Christmas? No, I don't mean the '80s toy line (though that would still be pretty cool), but rather real-life super powers, distributed by a fringe scientific laboratory specializing in nano-technology? Enter the Power & Glory Holiday Special. In it, Plex/Biomatrix, the organization responsible for giving the world a real superhero in A-pex, "the American Powerhouse," raffles off an opportunity to be a similar superhero for a week, and just our luck, a religious fanatic wins. Only in America!

If that doesn't say "Christmas" enough, Epiphany St. McMiracle (yes, that's her name) leads the First Church of the Internet -- I wonder if its high holy holiday is Cyber Monday -- and after a week's worth of temple-constructing (which beats the old car wash method of raising building funds!), she decides to skip the powering-down process and keep her new abilities . . . like we couldn't see that coming. Just like a spoiled brat on Christmas morn, she refuses to share, and the token fight between her and corporate vigilante Michael Gorski ensues. Fortunately, the scientists that created the super nano-bots weren't dumb enough to overlook the need for a fail safe -- a clever little lyric that disbands McMiracle's molecular structure for good. It's definitely the "ew" moment of the season.

I've never read Power & Glory before, so I can't tell if the tone of its holiday special is the norm for this series (or if I understand the characters' role correctly), but I rather enjoyed the heavy context of this issue's story in contrast to its light-hearted, even satirical tone. From Plex/Biomatrix's marketing of the super-lottery, to the page interviewing celebrities on what they'd do with powers (Nixon's is the best: "If I were super, I'd still be here."), to Gorski's pontifications on the dangers of religion -- this issue tackles a topic world-shattering in proportion and boils it down to social commentary and superhero spectacle, all with an air of holiday cheer. And while there's nothing overtly Christmas about the whole thing, the pomp in contrast to this story's circumstance is enough to maintain a semblance of good cheer even in the midst of potential cyber-religious terrorism.

So, what's the moral of this little holiday parable? Well, super powers are only half of what makes a super hero, of course. I mean, geez, it's already over three weeks after Christmas, and how many of your new toys have you broken, lost, or exchanged for store credit? (I've almost lost my new mp3 player twice!) How responsible would any of us be with flight, or super strength? Keep the power . . . it's not worth the glory!

Power & Glory Holiday Special was published in December 1994 by Malibu Comics and was written and illustrated by Howard Chaykin, lettered by Ken Bruzenak, and colored by Bu' Tones.

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