The year was 2007. I was just finishing up my time working in a comic book store, and I stood smugly judging the so-called Emo kids as they queued to get their grubby little hands on the first issue of Gerard Way’s comic The Umbrella Academy. Fast forward 12 years and here I am, sat in my boxers, reading his most recent release and lamenting myself for not realizing how great The Umbrella Academy was all along. The comic in question this time is Hazel and Cha Cha Save Christmas the festive stand-alone one-shot about the merry little adventures of everyone’s favourite time-hopping hitmen.
Hot off a run as the most viewed show on Netflix, there had to be a ton of pressure on Way to recreate the magic of his original comics in what is essentially the very first Umbrella Academy spin-off to date, and I don’t mind telling you that the anticipation was at an all-time high in my house.
The plot revolves around Hazel and Cha Cha turning up in anywhere, USA in the early 1980s to capture a rogue time-agent who has been posing as a High School teacher for reasons that are never explained. Meanwhile, a young loner named Pete, who just so happens to be a student of the aforementioned teacher, discovers a bizarre conspiracy about the existence of Santa, which could bring the Christmas season to its knees.
Gerard Way is usually great at writing bonkers stories, but for some reason, things feel a little off this time. Perhaps it’s the influence of Dark Horse Editor and co-writer Scott Allie or maybe he’d spent too long crying into his pillow since he last contributed to this crazy universe, but either way, the general feeling throughout Hazel and Cha Cha Save Christmas is one of confusion. And not the fun kind that you usually get post-Xmas lunch.
The two plots seem cobbled together at best, with a link so tenuous it seems almost pointless. Characters are basic, create zero empathy with the reader, and may as well not have existed. Why the whole Santa Clause conspiracy thread even made it into the final draft is perhaps one of life’s big mysteries, because quite frankly it just added to the whole clusterfuck feel of the comic. That’s not to say it couldn’t have worked if it had a) been explored deeper or b) been the sole premise of the one-shot. Sadly, neither was true.
Christmas is a time for miracles though, and this year was no exception. What could have been a confusing mess of a comic actually turned out to be a lot of fun, thanks in no small part to the two main protagonists Hazel and Cha Cha. From the moment they first appear, having their arses chewed out by management, to crash landing in the 80s, they have their readers eating out of the palms of their hands. Listening to them discuss whether or not ghosts exist is a hoot – and seemingly for them is more important than the mission they’ve been given. We would have happily paid to see these two just shoot the breeze for 32 pages if we’re honest.
Hazel and Cha Cha Save Christmas isn’t going to be remembered as a great entry in the Umbrella Academy series, but that’s the purpose of one-shots. They often exist outside the accepted continuity and often aren’t canon, so any flaws or imperfections just fade away into nothing when the real story starts over. Whether or not we’ll see more of these in the future is anyone’s guess, but we certainly hope this isn’t the last we see of these characters and if you can handle the nonsense that comes with it then this is a comic for you. We’d just suggest you skip to the pages with Hazel and Cha Cha.
Categories: Books, Comics & Anime