Marvel Madness

That Time Ultron Became Santa Claus

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Merry Christmas everyone! I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Christmas, and while I’m typically more of a Grinch than anything else, I wasn’t for a second going to pass up the opportunity to give you another weird and wacky Marvel story that fit in with the holidays. Because, oddly enough, Marvel kind of loves weird holiday stories. Which does kind of raise an issue with this installment of Marvel Madness. Typically I find stories that are either unintentionally weird or ones that are completely awesome. I usually try to stay away from stories that are purposefully weird and goofy, because that seems like kind of a cheat. So for a while I thought that I shouldn’t count any of the stories from Marvel’s many Marvel Holiday Special books, because they’re meant to be light-hearted and goofy. But, then I decided that that rule is stupid, and I’ve already talked about a storyline where Captain Britain and MI13 wage war with Dracula and his army of moon vampires, so I think anything’s fair game. Plus, why in the world would I not want to talk about a story where an Ultron who thinks it’s Santa crashes an Avengers Christmas party to start some shit? That’s some good comics right there.

The story starts off with a brief prologue where we see a young woman in a rundown apartment building some sort of robotic Santa, and telling herself that this will be the solution to all of her problems. And with that odd little opener taken care of we switch gears and check out Spider-Man, who is busy trying to get to the Avengers Christmas party on time, which is being held at Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. He gets there just in time to see Mary Jane flirting with Iron Man, Captain America, and Wolverine. And the party is in full-swing. We see some lame hero called Gravity trying to get into the door and being rejected by Wong, we see MJ fawning over Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ baby Dani, and we see Jarvis trying to polish some artifact that’s about to release a demon. You know, just a typical office party. But while everyone is having a merry old time we cut back to that girl from the beginning. She’s finished up her robotic Santa, given it a flying sled complete with holographic reindeer, and has programmed it to fulfill the role of Santa Claus, hoping that it’s mission will help children all around the city believe in Santa. But, a slight defect becomes apparent when the Santa leaves the apartment. Something that maybe should have been spotted in beta testing.

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Yeah, that’s going to be a problem. But before we get to the chaos that evil Santa is sure to bring, we go back to the Avengers Christmas party where shenanigans are afoot. Iron Man is trying to get a kiss from Spider-Woman by using some mistletoe, Jarvis is still not letting Gravity in, and Doctor Strange is forcing some sort of carnivorous plant from another dimension to look like a Christmas tree to make things more festive. And while all of these frivolousness are going on we see that Santa is continuing his mission. He heads to the old Avengers Mansion, hoping to find the Avengers. Unfortunately the Mansion is still destroyed at this point in time, so it has to fly off and find a new clue to get him on the right track. Which he does after figuring out how to track Iron Man’s armor and zapping some hoodlums that it labels as “naughty.” So it’s off to the Christmas Party!

Which is still going strong and getting goofier by the minute. Luke Cage finally lets Gravity come into the party, She-Hulk is wrestling with the carnivorous tree while trying to decorate it, and Captain America snags a kiss from Spider-Woman, who has somehow found herself under the mistletoe again. Which seems weird, until we learn that the reason is that Iron Man has hooked up some sort of hovering mistletoe to follow her around so everyone can get a kiss, which is ridiculously creepy. But Spider-Woman doesn’t really get a good chance at revenge, because right as she learns the truth about the wanton kissing, they get a sudden visitor, sliding down the chimney. Yep, it’s jolly old St. Nick, and he’s unhappy. His programming scans the Avengers, labels them naughty, double checks his list, and gets ready to destroy them. There’s a brief moment where it looks like Gravity is going to save the day, since Santa wasn’t targeting him as an Avenger, but he still gets knocked down and it’s up to Wolverine to slash Santa up, revealing something that might have been shocking if you hadn’t seen the title of this article.

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Yep, an Ultron unit that thinks it’s Santa has shown up to wreck house at the Sanctum Sanctorum. And it’s probably what the Avengers were least expecting, so they’re thrown pretty off guard. Ultron begins kicking ass, and while the heavy-hitter Avengers begin pounding Ultron with everything they’ve got, Spider-Man decides that a more strategic approach is necessary. He quickly grabs Hank Pym and the two start to brain storm. He realizes that this is an Ultron-6 model, and that it should be susceptible to an electromagnetic pulse, they’d just have to make one and get it close enough to it to trigger. And Spider-Man just so happens to have that hovering mistletoe from earlier, which they figure they can rig into an EMP. But that doesn’t solve the mystery of how they’re going to get it past Ultron’s force field.

But, Spider-Man has an even goofier plan to solve that riddle. Because he’s noticed that Ultron seems to actually believe it’s Santa Claus, it’s not just wearing a disguise. And, even more than that, he recognizes that Ultron has some sort of programming that’s making it act like Santa Claus. Therefore he figures that if he can get his hands on some cookies, stick the EMP in the cookie, and give it to Ultron it’s Santa Claus protocols will over-ride the Ultron ones, and it’ll eat the cookie. Which is exactly what happens. Ultron eats the cookie, is destroyed, and the Avengers get to work figuring out what the hell just happened. Pym is able to check the android’s memory banks, and discovers the history of the girl from the beginning. Turns out here name is Virginia Hanlon, and she’s a giften engineer who was frequently mocked as a child because she still believed in Santa Claus. So when she found the destroyed shell of an Ultron after one of it’s battles against the Avengers, she took it home and began programming it to become a real Santa so no one else would ever have to feel the shame she did. And, once that’s established, the Avengers decide to pay her a visit. But not to punish her, to be there for her. Because clearly someone who is so lonely and obsessed with Christmas that they’d turn an Ultron into Santa needs some friends. So the Avengers spend Christmas with Virginia, and Captain America even gives her a ridiculous and inspirational speech.

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Yeah, this isn’t exactly the most serious issue of comics I’ve ever read, but it’s a hell of a good time. The premise alone is worth the price of admission, and follows in the footsteps of several other stories where famous villains get to dress like Santa. Just like that time Doctor Doom dressed like Santa (yeah, I’ll get to that one some other time). Seeing the Avengers beat up an evil robot that’s dressed as Santa is going to be fun no matter what, but we also get the joy of seeing the Avengers Christmas Party, which is a lot more fun than their Thanksgiving dinner. Although I will say that the whole mistletoe thing was profoundly creepy. But despite that it was still just a really fun comic, with some great characters, some terrific art, and a really fun tone. I’m always a fan of seeing superheroes being a little dressed down and just having fun, and there was plenty of that in this issue. So I suppose you come for the Santa/Ultron and stay for the superhero mirth. Works for me.

“Yes Virginia, There is a Santron” was written by Jeff Parker, penciled by Reilly Brown, inked by Pat Davidson, lettered by Dan Lanphear, and colored by Christina Strain, 2005.

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