Comics : Marvel Holiday Special 2005

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This review was first published on: 2006.

Background...

Spidey is late for his first-ever holiday party as an official Avenger. Part of the reason that he is late is because he thought that the party was being held at the New Avenger HQ (Stark Towers), when it was actually being hosted this year by Doctor Strange in the Mystic Mage's Greenwich Village home.

In Detail...

"Yes Virginia, There is a Santron"
Marvel Holiday Special 2005 (Story 2)
SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man Appears
Editor:  John Barber
Writer:  Jeff Parker
Pencils:  Reilly Brown
Inker:  Pat Davidson
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Issue
Review

Virginia Hanlon is a very bright young girl. So bright, in fact, that her cognitive abilities fare exceeded other children of her age group. She was well on her way to achieve great things, only at the tender age of eight; she inadvertently discovered a profound truth that shook her young world. See, she still believed in Santa Clause, and when another youngster told her that Santa didn't really exist, Virginia slipped into what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. While she eventually recovered, it was many, many years later, and it left (unbeknownst to her) profound psychological scaring. In fact, it wasn't until some two decades later that anyone discovered precisely how profound that scaring was.

In General...

Aunt May's nephew is in a world of trouble, and he knows it. He is a half an hour late for the Avenger's party, and he knows that he is going to seriously catch it from his wife when he arrives. He just knows that Mary Jane is going to read him the riot act for abandoning her at a party with no one to talk to while she is awaiting him. Only when he arrives, he walks into a room were she is the center of attention.

Peter is stunned that she is surrounded by his teammates (Captain America, Iron Man, and Wolverine) all of whom seem to be putting the moves on his lovely wife. As Spidey is pondering this new wrinkle, the newest hero on the New York scene is Gravity (Greg Willis) who is now approaching Dr. Strange's house carrying a cake for the party. Gravity is so excited that he actually received an invite to the party that he is practally falling over himself when Dr. Strange's manservant, Wong greets him at the door. Only Wong very politely takes the cake and (because he doesn't know Gravity) closes the door in Gravity's face.

As Pete attempts to extract his wife from her throng of admirers, she spots Jessica Jones sitting off to one side with Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica's new baby daughter (thus indicating that this story takes place after Pulse #12 when the baby was born).

Just then, Dr. Strange descends the staircase, and warns Avenger butler, Jarvis that he shouldn't be polishing any of the statues because that not only is he a guest, but some of them are mystic icons that could become active by polishing.

Across town, Virginia is putting the finishing touches on her robotic Santa, who, unbeknownst to her, was partially constructed utilizing old, disgarded parts of one of the Ultron robots. Once the robot has become activated, he - in spite of his Santa programming - still wants to kill the Avengers, and so sets out on that mission, much to the dismay of Virginia.

Back at Dr. Strange's place, Tony Stark points out to Spider-Woman that she is standing under a mistletoe and plants an enthusiastic kiss on his surprised teammate. Gravity again attempts to gain entrance to the party, only this time to have the door closed in his face by Jarvis. With The Black Panther watching on Strange mystically turns an inter-dimensional, sentient Venus fly trap into a Christmas tree, only it is now simply bigger, and still wants to eat (including a very upset Wasp).

Back at the site of the old Avengers Mansion, Santron is attempting to locate the Avengers only to learn that they have relocated their place of residence across town to Stark Towers, so he heads off, to complete his kill-quest. At Strange's place, [[Wonder Man, T'Challa and Cage are admiring Strange's Kwanzaa display, as Captain America plants a kiss on a startled Jessica Drew as she is again (apparently) standing under a mistletoe.

Gravity is again denied entrance, this time by a more forceful Wolverine (who waves his adamantium claws in the new hero's face). As the mystical Christmas tree begins to get fresh with She-Hulk (by attempting to consume her), Spidey webs the tree up, so that it won't be any more trouble. Santron arrives at Stark Towers and realizes that the Avengers aren't there so he scans the area, and finally gets a bead on them at Dr. Strange's place.

Gravity finaly gains entrance to the party as Cage lets him in. As he enters, the heroes all don their masks (as most of them already know each other's identities and Gravity who is new, doesn't). It is now (while Yellow Jacket (Dr. Pym), Iron Man, and Spidey are fooling around with the electronic mistletoe (that they have been directing around the room so that it always winds up hovering over Spider-Woman) that the device malfunctions, and Jess discovers that she's been had, and is none too happy about it.

Understandably upset, she blasts Pym and Stark across the room, only to be startled by the sudden arrival of Santron. As the evil robotic Santa sweeps his gaze across the room, he determines that everyone is naughty, deserves to be punished, and unleashes his neural disruptor on the room. All of the heroes drop to the floor, incapacitated by the device; only Gravity manages to increase the device's weight, dislodging it from Santron's grasp. This immediately puts him on Santron's "naughty" list causing Santron to focus on Gravity.

Using the opening to his advantage, Wolverine lands an adamantium haymaker on the bogus Santa only to be slapped down by the powerful robot who has gone into full Battle-Bot mode, and begins to attack in earnest. As the heroes begin to marshal their forces, Spidey pulls Hank Pym to the side and attempts to formulate a counterstrike plan with the robot's original creator.

As the heroes strike back against the robot, Spidey heads out to the kitchen where MJ, Aunt May, Jarvis and Jess Jones are attempting to get the baby to nap. Just as Santron is going to deliver a killing stroke to the heroes, he is confronted by a silver tray with a cookie on it that Spidey retrieved from the kitchen. Confronted by a cookie, Santron immediately goes into Santa mode, and eats the cookie. Unbeknownst to Santa, the cookie has been spiked with a disruptor kludged together by Peter and Hank from the mobile mistletoe, and, once activated, shuts him down.

Once the threat is over, the Avengers search the robot's memory cells, and learn all about how the very gifted Virgie Hanlon inadvertently set this menace on the Avengers by attempting to reprogram an old Ultron robot. Not ones to hold grudges, the Avengers and their guests, track down Virgie, and finish up their Holiday celebrations at her house.

Overall Rating...

As with the first story, this one is both whimsical and entertaining. It is very enjoyable to watch our favorite heroes "relax" during some down time, and to take pleasure in each other's company without (at least at first) a world threat to bring them together.

Footnote...

This story very pleasantly fits into not only current New Avenger continuity but the writer also seems to have mostly nailed the various character's personalities and speech patterns. Always a plus for stories like these.