"War is Smelly"
The best thing about this issue of Simpsons Comics is the surprising reemergence of artist Dan Spiegle. I first encountered Spiegle's work on the smart version of Nemesis found in the back of bronze age Brave and Bold. Later Spiegle delighted me with issues of Scooby-Doo, and I sought out his backlog ranging from Crossfire to Johnny Quest.
Spiegle brings his considerable skill to the Groening style of the Simpsons for this special 4th of July issue in which Abe Simpson recounts his duty in World War II to Lisa Simpson. The war comics Dixon primarily pays homage to are those of Kaniger and Kubert, and Spiegle gives the visuals grittier linework to suit the art period. Naturally, he also designs realistic equipment to create a contrasting backdrop to the silliness of the characters.
Art Villanueva compliments Spiegle's linework with a darker palette of colors that blend with the wartime setting. We, for instance, get deep dark blues for night-clouds, grays for terrain and some intriguing shades to create the illusion of moody lighting effects.
The real problem with the book is that it's simply not funny. Abe, we discover, was in a relationship with a big name Hollywood star who was, in reality, an internationally fickle sort. The entanglement catalyzes a number of joke-attempts that full flat. Abe for instance decides not to bathe, and it's funk rather than his ferocity that keeps the Nazis at bay.
The ending of the book gives back Abe Simpson's dignity as some of the television episodes do, and perhaps it informs the reader that senile old men might have actually been heroes in their lifetimes. I just wish the message was given through a successfully comedic tale.
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