Review: “Jingle Belle: The Fight Before Christmas” (Dark Horse Comics, Jolly Jingling Special)

Welcome back to Jolly Jinglings, The Splintering’s holiday celebration of all things yuletide cheer!

Today, we’re going to look at Jingle Belle: The Fight Before Christmas, a three-story anthology one-shot published by Dark Horse Comics in 2005. Some spoilers will follow.

For those unaware of the character, Jingle Belle Kringle is a playful blonde teenage elf. She also happens to be Santa Claus’s daughter, and she’s a never-ending source of frustration for her dad.

While each of the three stories have different artists, all of the stories in this anthology were written by Jingle Belle creator, Paul Dini.The first story is eponymously titled The Fight Before Christmas (did I use that word right?), and it features illustrations by Stephanie Gladden and colors by Dan Jackson. The action centers around a hockey match between Jingle Belle’s (team name) and a rival hockey team made up of anthropomorphic snow leopards. 

Jingle Belle and opposing team captain Tashi Ounce have nursed a bitter, competitive rivalry for years. However, both have promised to play nice and put their teams first for this hockey match. Does this mean that they play a tough, but friendly game? Of course not. Instead, their solution is to continually foul each other so that they can both sit the game out in the penalty box, and therefore, “put their teammates first”.

During their time benchwarming in the penalty box, both Belle and and Tashi strike up some personal gossip, much of which is quite amusing, but eventually leads to the realization that they have both started dating the same guy. This revelation leads to a fight so massive that the entire arena becomes embroiled in it.

With only 8 pages to work with, this first tale does a good job telling a fun and complete story, with energetic artwork that seems reminiscent of classic animation styles. It is a little bit weird that a human is dating an anthropomorphic leopard, though.

The second story is titled Hot Rod Lemming, and features artwork by Jose Garibaldi. 

Jingle Belle herself is barely in this story, which instead follows Len, a lovestruck lemming who borrows Santa’s latest toy hot rod to impress the object of his affection, Lulu. It’s a cute story, but nearly four of the eleven pages include a sequence with no written dialogue or narration. That certainly makes this story read very quickly, but it’s still an enjoyable enough read, but more “cute and charming” than funny. Garibaldi’s artwork is very engaging and stylish, but there’s honestly not that much else to say about this one.

The third story in the anthology is titled Oh, Christmas Tree, which features artwork by J. Bone.

After reading it, I really wish I had stopped after story number 2. Oh, Christmas Tree was three pages of unabashed, excruciating political cringe inspired by the second George W. Bush term. If you were paying attention to mainstream pop culture at the time, the party line for discussing President Bush was that he was evil, a puppet of Vice President Cheney, and of course, dumb. This three-page story manage to hit all of those notes. 

The story involves Jingle Belle and Santa visiting Washington for a public event, while the President is making a speech. I don’t personally care what someone’s opinion of George W. Bush is, there’s plenty there to not like, but this story was petty, bitter, and worst of all, not very clever. The punchline is a poop and pee joke.

I honestly wish I had not read the last story. Not only does the humor not age well, but it negatively affected my opinion of Dini as a writer, who has been one of my favorites for decades. After all, he used the final pages of an all-ages, Christmas-themed one-shot for taking clichéd pot shots. At least he used a character he actually created to do it, though, rather than forcing his personal ideology onto another person’s creation. 

Unfortunately, the next time I see a Paul Dini book on the shelf, I now have to pause and wonder if I am getting fun, escapist entertainment, or if it could be an ideological sermon, and I’d rather not be in that place.

Can I recommend Jingle Belle: The Fight Before Christmas? The first two stories are fun and amusing enough. If you stop before the last one, or if you are perfectly fine jumping back down the rabbit hole to the worst of 2005-era political discourse, then you might get the full enjoy the book to the fullest extent. In any case, it’s not a remarkable anthology, but it’s not an expensive pickup, so snagging it from a back issue box won’t set you back much. 

Thanks for reading!

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