It's getting to be that time of year when you can hardly turn around without running into someone in the middle of a monologue about "the true meaning of Christmas." Thing is, comics are a medium that support the viewpoint that escapism is an okay thing to have once in a while. And so if you're looking to get away from togetherness, sharing, peace on Earth goodwill to men and all that soft Christmas jazz at the mall for a little while and enjoy something as far from the true meaning of Christmas as possible, comics offers that to you at this stressful time of year. Specifically in the form of The Tick #7, written by Benito Cereno with art by Les McClaine.

How far from the true meaning of Christmas does this get, you may ask? It involves, in no particular order, a man-eating cow, a road trip, wizards and an organized crime group led by a gnome.And that's only skimming the surface, because I don't want to overwhelm you or spoil the really good bits. The extra sparkly point at the tip of the star on top of the tree is that The Tick #7 is a joyous holiday pageant, one that's presented as if it were written by a tenderhearted child whose source material is a half-remembered Rankin-Bass Christmas special and whose primary nourishment is the special egg nog Mommy and Daddy were hiding from him because it's ninety-percent rum. Reading it is one of those small miracles that reaffirms your faith in humanity. At least in the subsection of humanity that's responsible for creating comic books.

Like many people of my age I first became a fan of The Tick through the 1990s animated series, and this story recaptures the magic of that show and brings along more of its own. The Tick is having one of those holiday seasons where he's just not as happy as he feels like he should be, so he and Arthur pile into a station wagon and set off to follow a bright light in the sky to the east, in search of the annual birth of the Baby Santa. They're joined by Man-Eating Cow, a bovine vigilante with a self-explanatory name who is pursuing Lawn-Gnome Larry, a tiny crime lord who looks exactly like an evil David the Gnome in mafioso sunglasses.

The journey takes them across the highways of the plain states, past roadside attractions, convenience store pit-stops and hitchhikers. There are single panels within this comic book that are more funny than many other entire comic books theoretically created with the goal of making you laugh. The reason I feel so reluctant to go into any further detail about the story is there is so very little I can actually say that would not ruin some joke I would feel guilty to spoil for you, potential reader. Just take my word when I say that this is a comic that is absolutely worth your time.

It's rare to find a story that riffs on Christmas like this -- one that has so much genuine enthusiasm for the holidays, so much originality, so many great jokes fit into a mere twenty-two pages. Go get this book. For yourself. Or as a gift for any friend who still has fond memories of the character, particularly if they haven't been exposed to him for a few years. This is better than those chocolate oranges that you have to break up into wedges, despite the fact that they combine my love of chocolate with my love of things available for only a limited time every year with my love of smashing things. It's that good.

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