Little, Brown & Co. seem to be the current holders of the "Marvel Super Hero Squad" franchise for producing kids story books. They've recently published a small collection of Super Hero Squad books under their "Passport to Reading" label.
This one is Passport Level 1, "Reading Together".
The book is 6" x 9", square-bound. Inside are 32 full-color pages.
In this story, the Super Hero Squad head off for what might be their craziest story yet. And that's saying something, given that these guys can always be counted on for some quirky shenanigans.
How crazy? Well, Loki decides he wants to be the King of Christmas, so he takes over the North Pole. Is that nuts enough for ya? Loki invades with an elite task force of Frost Giants, kidnaps Santa Claus, and forces all the elves to dress up as little Loki look-alikes. He puts the elves back to work making toys... FOR LOKI!
Oh no! He's keeping all the toys for himself? But... think of the children!
But wait. Check out this awesome dialogue when Loki captures Santa.
Loki laughs. "You have eaten your last Christmas Cookie, big boy," he says.
Fantastic stuff. But Loki makes one tiny mistake. He sends out a "Ha, Ha, I Have Stolen Christmas!" card to the Super Hero Squad. So of course it's not long before Storm, Human Torch, Silver Surfer and Spider-Man are on their way to the North Pole to save Santa!
And save Santa they do — with surprisingly little resistance. The Frost Giants melt away in front of Human Torch's fireballs, and Storm spins Loki around in an (indoor) tornado until he's nauseous and ready to surrender. Then the heroes recover the reindeer from whence they were hidden, and Santa delivers the toys (no longer Loki's toys) in time to keep all the little boys and girls happy.
To me, the most interesting aspect of the book is the fact that we do of course owe many of our Christmas traditions to the gods of the Norse Mythology (including Odin, Thor and Loki). As we all know, Christmas originated as a pagan tradition, and Yuletide is the winter solstice festival devoted to the ancient Northern Gods.
So firstly, Loki was stealing Christmas back from Coca-Cola (who popularized "Santa" and gave him the chubby red appearance he commonly wears today). Secondly, gift-giving wasn't a big part of historical pagan rituals (although feasting was, along with blood sacrifices, naturally). So that explains his desire to keep the gifts, thus eliminating the crass modern commercialisation of Christmas.
To me, that makes Loki the good guy in this whole story. All he's trying to do is return Christmas to its roots!
Movies like "The Santa Clause" have worked hard to remind children and parents the world over that what really matters at Christmas is family, love, and sharing. This book is making a decent effort in the opposite direction to convince us that Christmas is about Cookies, Coca-Cola advertising symbols, and Gifts, Gifts, Gifts!
Certainly the implausible plot and ridiculous characterizations have a charming silliness about them. But I must confess the "Mom & Apple Pie" goodness of this "Heroes Save Christmas" story leaves me with rather a queasy feeling in my stomach, like I just ate too many Christmas Cookies.
Here's Two Webs for ya... "Big Boy".