Jimmy Olsen Steve Lieber

The Comics of Christmas 2020

Because I am who I am, I inevitably receive a gaggle of fantastic comics each Christmas. This year, my friends and family gifted me four wonderful books, and while I have not yet finished all of them, I figured I’d post my initial thoughts on each here – as both a thank you to my loved ones, and a way of telling you all where you should spend the Amazon and Barnes & Noble gift cards you received for Christmas. (Yes, I received some of those, too.)

Head Lopper

Friend, secret Santa, and regular Waiting on the Trade co-host Callum Smith started Christmas early by sending over the first volume of Head Lopper. I know this comic has been on Cal’s shortlist of “comics to discuss on the podcast” for some time, and after reading it myself, I can see why. This book does a ton of things that are right up Cal and my’s respective alleys, within a sword and sorcery world that’s easiest to pitch as a mash-up of Hellboy and Adventure Time.

The titular Head Lopper does, of course, lop heads. And if you’re into colorful, kinetic, D&D-style action, you’ll definitely find it here. However, I suspect Cal is particularly fond of this book because he loves Agatha the Blue Witch – an absurdly comic personality who is just a head, yet is one of the story’s most animated characters. While I have not quite finished this first volume (which is partly Cal’s fault, as you’ll see later), Head Lopper is a real treat. I’m stoked to discuss this comic with Cal and WOTT co-host Patrick FitzGerald-Fleck at some point later this year, especially because I think Pat will love the fantasy-novel-style maps that precede each chapter.

One Holly Jolly Panel

agatha and a skull head lopper

My Boyfriend Is a Bear

My brother, who I think enjoyed this comic’s delightful cover, gifted me My Boyfriend Is a Bear. Longtime readers will know I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for over two years, and it certainly did not disappoint.

Specifically, My Boyfriend Is a Bear was entirely as heartfelt, humorous, and charming as I’d hoped it would be. The book’s opening pages quickly establish its shut-up-and-deal-with-it fantasy logic, and from there, lead character Nora’s romance with an actual, honest-to-goodness bear plays out in ways both obvious (he eats ALL the food) and entirely surprising (Nora puts on weight too, because that’s what happens when your partner eats a lot).

My favorite bits of this book were definitely its many “normal couple” moments – which are heightened and rendered comically absurd by half the couple in question being a bear. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to see a bear build shelving, play Scrabble (while horny), or answer the door for Halloween, this book is for you.

One Holly Jolly Panel

bear in the bins my boyfriend is a bear

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen

Continuing her streak of buying me Matt Fraction comics for Christmas, my mom tracked down and wrapped up Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. While I’m quite excited to read Jimmy, this is actually the Christmas comic I’ve spent the least time with so far – likely because I feel like I’ve already read a good portion of it.

Jimmy Olsen, you see, is possibly the most memeable mainstream comic that’s been released in the last zillion years. As such, those of us who spend time on comics Twitter have already seen Dex-Starr spray Jimmy with so much blood, Superman magically summon a hot dog, Batman stick an arrow on his head, and Jimmy Olsen create some … content many, many times. For that reason, I’ve continually pushed Jimmy toward the bottom of my To Read pile, opting to read the new books I know less about first.

However, I know there’s much more to Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen than its many memeable moments. In just the bits I’ve paged through, I can already see how Matt Fraction, Steve Lieber, and their collaborators are playing with single-issue structure, narrative timelines, and yes, the absurdity inherent in superhero comics. This book looks like a loving send-up of the DC Universe which, in its best forms, is a wacky, wonderful place that I love to visit.

One Holly Jolly Panel

Geis: A Game Without Rules

Not content to send just one thoughtful gift, Cal followed up his most recent Waiting on the Trade appearance by also sending over the second volume of Geis. Geis: A Game Without Rules is about 1.5x longer than A Matter of Life & Death, but I’m pretty sure I devoured this chapter even more quickly than the first. This was probably a result of the book’s focus on games, rules, and laws – three topics which are EXTREMELY MY JAM.

Those who listened to our Geis episode and wondered if the second volume would be as good as the first can wonder no more: Geis: A Game Without Rules is great. Deacon’s animated artwork continues to push the story forward at a brisk (but not too brisk) pace, and there are multiple set pieces and full-page splashes that are sights to behold. It’s the story’s cleverness and increasing tension, however, that impressed me most; multiple twists set me laughing and/or caused me to audibly gasp. My only regret about reading Geis‘s second volume so quickly is that I now have about six months to wait until I can finish the story.

Two Holly Jolly Panels

With any luck, your Christmas was as full of great comics (and great people) as mine was. If you have a favorite comic you received and/or read over the holidays, and you want to share it with others, feel free to leave a note in the comments below. Otherwise, I hope these mini-reviews point in you in the right direction for spending those holiday gift cards or purchasing next year’s Christmas gifts.

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