Two stories complement each other in this smashing issue of Bart Simpson Comics. In the first, Carol Lay applies her art and writing to the Simpsons siblings, Bart and Lisa.
Lisa intends to enter a history contest, and she finds her inspiration in the Egyptian wing of the Springfield Museum. The elegant premise draws in numerous cast members that affect the plot in surprising ways.
The chief enjoyment in Lay’s story derives from how she portrays the relationship between Bart and his sister. Bart’s actually quite sweet in Lay’s story. I think Bart was genuinely impressed by Lisa’s project and felt her downfall would be a tragic injustice. So he directs his talent for mischief to avenge his sister.
This isn’t entirely inference on my part. Lay foreshadows Bart’s participation. Early in the story, she establishes Bart’s enthusiasm in Egyptian art and history. Lay also reminds readers that Bart and Lisa do share a few things in common.
Lay’s art doesn’t just capture the Matt Groening model. She brings a lot of warmth to the characters. Marge for instance smiles lovingly at her daughter and encourages her curiosity and creativity. Bart laughs heartily at Lisa’s fan fiction contribution.
The second major story switches the roles Bart and Lisa played in the prior tale. El Barto appears to be responsible for the mustache graffiti proliferating Springfield’s private and public portraits and photos. Bart however is completely innocent. Lisa helps him investigate.
Writer Arie Kaplan, a new voice in The Simpsons line of comic books, starts strong. He encapsulates characterization in a few panels. Witness action star McBain’s hammy performance, with extra sauce courtesy of artist Nina Matsumoto and Mike Rote. Kaplan’s solution to the crime is at once suitable and touching.
Art Villanueva brightens Lay’s tale with gold themes and drops into Crayola mimicry for the story within a story. He brings a kaleidoscope of hues to the carnival setting in “Maggie’s Crib” and employs radioactive green for a more benign purpose in Kaplan’s mystery. Nathan Hamill chooses some attractive combinations for the minimalist “Bart vs. Bart” and spreads the joy through Springfield elementary roster for “The More the Merrier”
Sergio Aragones’ vignette alludes to the classic “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” A comedic one pager by Mary Trainor and Rote unleashing Bart’s imagination and an amusing Yuletide gag by Evan Dorkin, Dexter Reed and Rote finish the fat anthology of funny.