Writer: Tom Peyer
Artists: Mike DeCarlo(p), Ken Wheaton(i), Robert Stanley(c)
"Milhouse's Guide to Keeping it Cool"
Writer: Brian Houlihan
Artists: Nick Masumoto(p), Mike Rote(i), Art Villanueva(c)
"Ralph Learns a Lesson"
Writer: Jesse Leon McCann
Artists: James Lloyd(p), Andrew Pepoy(i), Nathan Hamill(c)
This issue of Bart Simpson Comics is more of a Bart Simpson and Friends. The first story belongs to Bart. Second banana Milhouse takes the spotlight for a vignette, and Ralph Wiggum stars in the third tale. All three however benefit from The Simpsons styled zaniness and dead ringer Matt Groening inspired artwork.
In Bart's story, the imp plays what seems to be at first a rather pedestrian prank, yet Bart is a master of psychology. He knows what affect his rain of terror, pun intended, will produce. What he cannot predict is the exact reaction. Bart though is an arch adapter.
Peyer conceives of a brilliant joke story that's circumspect on Bart's adversarial relationships with Skinner. He avoids falling into clichés, and by doing so, recalls one of the Simpsons mantra: nobody learns anything.
The story allows for some truly disturbing images. It's rather fitting that inker Mike DeCarlo gets to pencil the bizarre switcharoo fashion. Ken Wheaton's inks do DeCarlo justice, and Stanley's colors touch the entire rainbow to cast variegated hues on a massive cast.
Brian Houlihan takes on the suave, sophisticated, at least in his own mind, Milhouse Van Houten. In a way the short takes a page from the episode where Homer offers advice to his father who attempts to court Mrs. Bouvier, Marge's mother. The difference is that Homer's advice was mere parody on fifties petting films. Milhouse's advice is just utterly wrong and on so many levels.
Nina Masumoto, Mike Rote and Art Villanueva appear to take great joy in illustrating Milhouse. The cover to his advice book is utterly hilarious and symbolic of the astoundingly bad hints that will be learnt. Oddly enough, or perhaps because the story is told from Milhouse's clearly delusional point of view, the bushy eye-browed sidekick triumphs, rather than as on the series repeatedly dies a horrid death--a good example of this "flexible reality" can be found in a scene where Jimbo, Kearney and Dolph taped him up, tucked him in a shopping cart and sent him careening down a massive hill. The moments of ebullience however have a beautifully phony touch. It's as if Milhouse is winking at the audience, yet not knowing that he's not in on the real joke.
For the final short, Jesse Leon McCann instigates a sting operation on young Ralph Wiggum. Dolph, Kearney and Jimbo take advantage of him again and again. Although the bullies seem to for a sliver of the tiniest moment envy Ralph's relationship with his father, who loves his boy unconditionally, they revert back to what they are, the school yard menace. It's this greed that leads to their satisfying comeuppance.
Special note must be made of James Lloyd's comic book gags, which feature continuity specific references such as "Krusty's Playhouse Comics" but also odd little riffs on Basil Wolverton, Superman, musicals and obesity. Andrew Pepoy's inks come into focus for forced perspective shots. Nathan Hamill's colors add a particularly beautiful nuance to a three panel change in time, and quite frankly allegedly serious comic books should be this beautiful and this inventive with their angles.
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