Realizing that, despite their mediocrity, the DC Universe Holiday Specials have sold well, the company assembled a Halloween Special. It features some impressive art but very little in the way of worthwhile storytelling.

Title: DC Universe Holiday Special ‘09

Writer and Artists: Too numerous to mention.

Premise:

Bizarro celebrates Halloween on his world, Guy Gardner throws a party, we learn what creeps out the Creeper, the Outsiders star in the prologue to a story that may finish elsewhere (but I challenge anyone to care), spectacularly clueless thieves hold up a Wayne Foundation charity event, two versions of Robin celebrate memorable holidays, Ravager meets trick-or-treaters, Kid Flash and Mirror Master discover that some kids really have summoned Bloody Mary, Beast Boy just wants candy, Superman and the Flash race, Superman decides he wants to be scary for once, and (in a story as dated as Supergirl’s current outfit) Wonder Woman and some fledgling superheroines play off that new and groundbreaking Blair Witch Project we’ve lately heard so much about.

High Points

The Superman/Flash race, by Billy Tucci and Hi-Fi, sounds as though it shouldn’t belong in a Halloween special. In fact, this take on the Silver Age tale nicely recalls its comic-book history while evoking the spirit of the season. “Mirror Games,” while rushed, comes the closest to being a frightening tale about DC characters.

Of course, in a world inhabited by aliens, magical beings, and mythic deities, one would expect more people to be familiar with the supernatural.

Low Points

Most of the stories consist of short, throwaway gags and twists that are neither funny nor scary and to which the writers have given too little thought. “My Turn to Be Scary” wastes a promising premise with poor and too-direct execution. Most of the stories don’t even have a promising premise to waste.

The Scores

Originality: 2/6.

Artwork: 5/6. The artwork varies from tale to tale, but much of it impressed me. Scott Clark gives us strong conventional comic-book art in “Haunted or Hoax?” Billy Tucci captures nostalgia for several comic-book pasts with “To the Finish Line,” while Sergio Carrera and Matt Triano take idiosyncratic looks at Batman and his supporting cast. We also get a few amusing visual gags: references to the Zombie Superhero trend, Clark and Lois as Fred and Daphne.

Story: 2/6. A “but there really was a supernatural element, after all” twist does not by itself make a bad story good; too many of the contributing writers think otherwise.

Characterization: 3/6. The stories are too short, in most cases, for developed characterization. Some of the writers do a passable job with well-established characters.

Emotional response: 2/6. Shouldn’t “13 all new tales of terror!” at least try to be scary?

Flow 3/6. It takes talent to make one and three-page stories as choppy as some of these. Others follow a fair visual rhythm.

Overall: 3/6.

In total, DC Universe Halloween Special ’09 #1 receives a score of 20/42.