In yesterday’s Comics Load, I panned DC’s annual holiday book because murder and ritualistic bloodletting just doesn’t inspire the kind of Christmas spirit I crave this time of year. Thankfully, DC sent in another (unlikely) hero to rescue my holiday mood. At Comic-Con, way back in July, Geoff Johns dropped hints of a Larfleeze Christmas adventure, and I’ve been counting down the days since then.
Larfleeze, for the uninitiated, is the one and only Orange Lantern, representing avarice. Why is Larfleeze such a fabulous invention? I think there’s something about greed that lends itself to comedy in a way that just doesn’t work for rage and fear. Larfleeze certainly started out as more on the menacing side than the comedic. Then, somewhere along the way, around year 10 of the Blackest Night run, Larfleeze got bored and started cracking jokes. I don’t blame him; I did the same. So, by the end of the zombie parade, Larfleeze was fully ensconced as the funny ne’er-do-well of the Green Lantern universe. In fact, I’m pretty sure I recall Blackest Night ending with Hal Jordan and the rainbow lanterns intoning “Oh, Larfleeze!” in unison before throwing their heads back in laughter. Freeze frame and credits.
The main feature of the Larfleeze Christmas Special is “Orange You Glad It’s Christmas,” written by Johns himself. Larfleeze awakes Christmas morning, expecting to find everything on his Christmas list under the tree, which is beautifully festooned with toilet paper and everything but the kitchen sink—wait—the kitchen sink is actually there, too. The missing bounty confuses and angers Larfleeze, who believes he’s followed all the customary rituals in anticipation of Santa’s arrival. He even left out a plate of Orange Lantern cookies (recipe included in this issue), the customary “Christmas barter” for the “red-suited giant.” This perceived snubbing sends Lar on a rampage, and he attacks a local Christmas parade and a crowd of department store Santas, searching for his stuff.
Everyone knows that Santa is back at the North Pole by Christmas morning (“Which way is that?” Lar asks.), so Lar and his trusty sidekick Glomulus head north to get some answers (and presents). Of course, Holier-Than-Thou-Hal shows up to break some devastating news to Lar and Glom and generally be a dick. The “teaching Larfleeze the true meaning of Christmas” is fairly routine, as these sorts of stories go. The real emotional punch comes at the end, and we’re left wondering why Hal didn’t think of inviting Larfleeze to spend Christmas with him and his friends and family (apparently, Hal has friends and family, which is news to me).
In addition to the humor in Lar’s twisted view of the Santa myth, the real enjoyment here is in the details. I spent a good half hour or so just straining to read everything on Lar’s Christmas list (“brake job,” “tomato soup” and “roast beast” are there). There are also plenty of visual jokes in his surroundings, from his flannel holiday sheets to the Flash merchandise that seems to be everywhere. Lar is a relatively unique character in the DC Universe, in that he relates to and comments on the action in a way no one else can. His world view is very basic: he only sees what he wants and what (or who) stands in the way of that. But this simplicity also allows him to identify the hypocrisy of others. When Hal tells him that he only hears what he wants to hear, Larfleeze replies, “Doesn’t everyone?”
There are enough clues here and in other appearances to suggest that Larfleeze is on a clear trajectory to deal with his past. So far, the character has managed to maintain a healthy balance of humor and purpose. Hopefully, Johns and company will continue to walk this tightrope and keep Lar from devolving into the Urkel of the DCU.
Art Baltazar (Tiny Titans) provides the back-up story in the issue, featuring Glomulus traveling to the various Lantern worlds in search of something orange for Larfleeze for Christmas. Remember earlier when I said that fear and rage don’t lend themselves to humor? Well, I was wrong. Baltazar manages to parody all the various Lanterns and their moods in only a couple of pages. It’s whimsical and fun, and it’s great to see Glom get his own mini-adventure.
All in all, this is a great book for the Larfleeze fanbase out there and more than makes up for the grim 2010 DC Universe Holiday title. Reading the recipe for Orange Lantern cookies, I immediately began making plans to bake a batch for Christmas, knowing full well I’m spending the day with non-comics fans who wouldn’t know a Larfleeze from a Kleenex. Just as well; more for me. And isn’t that the true spirit of a Larfleeze Christmas?