A Very Lobo Hanukkah
The final entry in DC's Very Merry Multiverse #1, this year's holiday one-shot extravaganza, is a vibrant retelling of 1 Maccabees (the origin story of Hanukkah, folks!) starring... Lobo?!
The Dominators have taken over Space Spector #3773, and banned the worship of dolphins.
Lobo doesn't like this.
When Lobo doesn't like something, people get dead.
Tom King didn’t get where he is as an author by making safe decisions. Love him or hate him, nobody can deny that the man has an uncanny knack for writing stories that are absolute lightning rods for readers: Think the Bat/Cat wedding that wasn’t, the death of Alfred Pennyworth, the mere existence of Heroes in Crisis, or the “borrowing” of Otto Binder’s tragic later years for a story beat in Rorschach. King is, in a word, divisive.
Some may say that he’s bold for his choices; others, disrespectful or just in it for shock value. Some may roll their eyes at his sparse, repetitive narration; others may think it has lyrical and even poetic genius. It all comes down to the eye of the beholder – but Tom King has the strange ability to seem most comfortable when he’s straddling that line between the opposing (and vocal) sides of fandom when it comes to hashing out his writerly merits.
Case in point: “A Very Lobo Hanukkah,” the final entry in this year’s annual holiday jam from DC, DC’s Very Merry Multiverse #1. In it, King stages a pretty straightforward story in which Lobo takes out an entire conquering Dominator war machine because they won’t let people have the freedom to worship dolphins – the one thing Lobo actually cherishes. The Dominators deem all religious worship superfluous, and ban the practice, under their new logic-only regime. Lobo, ahem, liberates the sector from Dominator rule, and in the end, waxes poetic (more or less) about people’s freedom to worship what they want.
The hitch is this: the story is actually a parallel for 1 Maccabees, an apocryphal book generally found in most Catholic or Orthodox Bibles, but not in Protestant ones. 1 Maccabees tells the story of the reclamation of Jerusalem from Seleucidian rule by a Jewish uprising that not only ends in their victory, but in a rededication of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, which is the root of the story of Hanukkah. King uses 1 Maccabees as a narrative device for Lobo’s brutal assault on the Dominators (juxtaposition of two seemingly opposing things in order to craft a metaphor for their similarities is a narrative trick he absolutely loves), leaving little doubt in the readers’ mind that Lobo is meant to be a stand-in for the Jewish people themselves in that tale, or at least their leader in the revolt, Judas Maccabeus.
That honestly might not have been the worst thing in the world if this were a story about Batman or Superman (who, ahem, has some pretty famously Jewish creators and cultural roots) – but, perhaps going for irony or humor but instead winding up just coming off as tone-deaf, King chose Lobo for his approximation of the Jewish people in one of their most sacred stories. Maybe he just thought it was superficially funny, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of consideration to realize that casting a mass-murder who’s generally regarded as not-such-a-good-guy as a stand-in for the Jewish people in the story that is foundational to Hanukkah might not have been such a hot idea. To further compound this problematic notion, as Lobo wades through hordes of Khund and Dominator soldiers, he makes a point of saying that his violence is at least 50/50 as importance as fighting for religious freedom, then 60/40, 70/30, and so on, until in the end he just says the hell with it and can’t even remember why he’s fighting.
This is not a good look for an approximation of the Jewish people.
In the end, that tone-deafness somewhat attempts to right itself, when Lobo, having freed the dolphins from their captivity, has a rare moment of introspection and admits that people ought to be free to worship whatever or whoever they please – and that the right to choose whoever they wish to worship is a miracle in and of itself. That’s nice sentiment, and might have had more value if it were coming from anybody other than Lobo, an unrepentant genocidal maniac.
Scott Koblish, at least (with Hi-Fi on colors), does a decent job of drawing the whole thing. Koblish is one of those always-dependable artists who are remarkable for how unremarkable they seem; he’s a workhorse who always hits his deadlines with solid work but for whatever reason has never been deemed a superstar. He even finds ways to work with King’s unnecessary but genuinely intriguing page layout cadence: each page has a corresponding number of panels with it’s actual page number (page two = two panels; page three = three panels, etc.). There’s no real rhyme or reason for this, other than King loves to play these types of games with readers.
DC's Very Merry Multiverse #1 (King, Koblish, Hi-Fi) closes on a tone-deaf note when Lobo, of all characters, is transposed as a very, very violent representative for the Jewish people in "A Very Lobo Hanukkah." Not a good look for anybody involved.
DC’s Very Merry Multiverse #1: A Very Lobo Hanukkah
Writing - 5/105/10
Storyline - 2/102/10
Art - 7/107/10
Color - 7/107/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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