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Simpsons Comics #152

Posted: Saturday, March 21, 2009
By: Ray Tate

John Bates
Phil Oritz, Mike DeCarlo (i), Art Villanueva (c)
Bongo Comics
"In the Name of Lava"

The actions of Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel inspire Bart to play a prank to end all pranks. Bart returns from his excursion and dupes Homer J. easily, but what's surprising is how many slow-thinkers exist in Springfield.

Bates' story is simply put perfect. It's plot slips through town like a snake and touches every inhabitant. As the serpentine slithers, numerous gags of character and continuity arise. The Olmec Head for instance appears. Nancy Drew gets name-checked. Tabs are filled by force. Decisions that would stymie Solomon are made. Money is funneled. Loot is burgled, and a modest sexual proposal fizzles.

Some of these gags will play a part in the Apocalypse Party. Others simply linger in the memory. The status quo is challenged by the unwitting and the desperate sly.

Phil Ortiz, Mike DeCarlo and Art Villanueva take advantage of the bulbous eyes inherent in the Matt Groening style to reflect the crisis. The moment turns the dramatic cliché on its ear. They play with the angles in which the cast is shot. An upfront panel for instance shows Milhouse in a rare pose. Bart uses exaggeration and gesticulation to sell his story, and his smug expressions offer a running theme of amusement as the situation exacerbates. Needless to say, no matter if illustrating Wiggum, Kent Brockman, Snake, Mr. Burns or Dr. Nick Riviera, Oritz, DeCarlo and Villanueva do more than simply keep them on model. They animate them with same verve to be found on the series.

I doubt even the television series writers can top Bart's ingenious exposure of the town's gross gullibility and stupidity. It even surpasses his Timmy in the Well gag.



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