It has become a tradition that as the year draws to a close, and the year-end religious holidays approach, Marvel will publish a "Holiday" comic (formerly called a Christmas issue, but in these days of political correctness, we now have to include the non-Christian holidays (Chanukah, Kwanzaa, etc.) in with these - not that there is anything wrong with that.
The 2005 Holiday special offers up three stories, the first one staring Ben Grimm (who is Jewish) and the Fantastic Four, the second Spotlighting Spider-Man and the New Avengers, and the third also with the FF.
During the Holiday season, several department Store Santas are being snatched by one of the Moleman's monstrous creatures and brought to his underworld lair. The FF get involved with the case, and attempt to not only rescue the Santas, but to learn why the underworld Moloids are so set on acquiring a Santa of their very own.
The story opens up with a NYC department store Santa being abducted by one of the Moleman's monstrous minions. The poor guy is swiped right off his chair in the middle of placating snot-nosed, bratty kids who are reading through endless of toys that they want brought to them for the big day. Only as the Jolly one is abducted and dragged underground, it appears that Christmas might just be a little bit late this year.
Once the creature returns to Moleman's throne room, and deposits the faux Santa on Moleman's throne, Moleman's goggle-eyed minions check the happles Santa out against a photo, and determine that he isn't the real deal, and so they have the green behemoth that kidnapped Santa, toss him into a side dungeon with a gaggle of other phony Santas that also didn't make the grade. No sooner has the counterfeit Santa been dismissed, the beast heads out to find another likely candidate.
Only this time the beast runs afoul of the FF who have become aware of the disappearing Santas, and have determined to track down the culprit. The Fantastic Four not only stop the new Santa-napping but also manage to corral one of the yellow subjects of the Moleman. Realizing that the Moloids don't speak, they take the little fellow back to the Baxter Building and strap him into one of Reed's high-tech gismos to try and figure out.
By monitoring the creature's brainwaves, Reed determines that the depressed Moleman is looking for Santa, and has gone missing. So his Moloid subjects are attempting to locate Santa hoping that if they snag the right Santa, it will induce their missing monarch to return to them. Reed wants to lead the team down to Moleman's kingdom to rescue the detained Santas, but Ben feels that busting heads over the Holiday just isn't right, and sets out to learn more about Moleman's fascination with Santa.
While Reed modifies the Fantasticar for sub-surface maneuvering, Ben takes to wandering the streets of Manhattan looking for clues to Moleman's past. The first Hero he happens across is our very own Spider-Man, who remembers fighting Moleman once, but doesn't really know much about him. Grimm then manages to place calls to both Hulks (Banner in the middle of the Nevada desert, and Jen Walters in her Mid-town office). While The Hulk isn't of much help, his cousin acknowledges that Moleman once kidnapped a number of women in an attempt to find a bride to serve as his Queen.
Using the addresses provided to him by his former teammate, Grimm tracks down some of the women; only they aren't much help either. Next on Grimm's list is Moleman's grandmother who tells Ben that her grandson, Harvey Rupert Elder (Moleman's real name) dearly loved Christmas. Apparently, her husband used to dress as Santa, and Harvey would love to sit in his lap. Then she shows Ben a family photo of herself, Harvey and her husband, who, even dressed as Santa, bears a striking resemblance to an old acquaintance of Grimm's, none other than the Submariner.
After rounding up Namor, the pair descends into one of the tunnels left behind by the monster that snatched the Santas. Ben and Namor (who is now dressed as Santa, and none too happy about it) catch up with the rest of the FF in a pitched battle with the Moloids. Ben stops the fight, and presents Namor as the Santa for whom they were looking.
Elated, the Moloids snatch up the new Santa and quickly deposit him on MoleMan's throne, convinced that he is the one. Unfortunately, after several hours of waiting, Moleman is a no-show, and the FF leads the Santas back to the surface. Reed attempts to console his old friend and posits that while Ben did his best, perhaps this is all just a part of the puzzle of who the Moleman is, and that they might never know what was going on.
As the heroes depart, we cut to a south sea beach, and the Moleman soaking up some rays in the sun, explaining that all he really wanted was a little vacation.
As a short, cute Holiday tale, this one really is quite entertaining, as it plays into all of the correct motifs of the characters. Everyone is in character, and the tale is more than just a little whimsical, making it a prefect year-end tale to ring in the Holidays.
While Ben Grimm's desire to do right by Moleman during the holiday season is wonderfully portrayed, no mention is made in this story of the fact that Grimm is actually Jewish.