Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bart Simpson #50

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded, and maybe you'd like to think about reading them as well. This time, a review of Bart Simpson # 50 (Bongo, 2009).

Earlier in the week, Chris Butcher, manager of Toronto's simply superb bookstore The Beguiling, published a fascinating essay on the problems of "all ages" comics in a marketplace dominated by child-unfriendly superhero stories. As a dad whose son beat a hasty retreat from the increasingly desperate DC Comics into the more sensible climes of Bongo ages ago, I found it a truly interesting read. And with the fiftieth issue of Bart Simpson, Bongo has come up with something flatly unmissable for anybody who likes fun comics, regardless of your age: they've got Sergio Aragon├ęs onboard to write and draw the title.

In a way, it's almost like symmetry to have him working on The Simpsons. I'm of the opinion that the last really watchable season of that show, over half its life ago, was the one with the episode where they went to New York and Bart ever-so-briefly visited the offices of Mad.

I've been reading my son's Simpsons collection for quite some time now, and the comics are only sporadically great, but they're certainly good enough to pass the time without frustration. This issue, which features several short stories, is easily the best of Bongo's titles I've ever read, even bettering the one that pretended to be an anthology of other countries' Simpsons comics. The lead story starts with a bored Bart and Milhouse spitting on passing cars before tedium leads them to start designing a rocket. Professor Frink offers well-intended assistance, but, in much the same way kids will lose interest if you try and direct them towards particular comic books, grown-ups ruin everything, building up to a wonderful double-page spread packed with dozens and dozens of interested parties surrounding the house on Evergreen Terrace. I know that Aragon├ęs is billed as the world's fastest cartoonist, and having seen him prove that for the crowd at UGA earlier this year, I believe it, but this double-page spread must have taken him at least the better part of an hour.

Put simply, this is a comic so fun that I'll happily buy two copies: one that I have ordered to have for my son's collection when he returns home after a few months with his mom, and one to give him to read while he's up there. It's one of Mad's greatest artists drawing the ultimate middle school boys' comics. Setting aside the reality that kids that age, as I say, tend to lose interest in anything you suggest for them, if you've got a middle schooler in your life, you've no business not buying this, for them or yourself.

(Note: Normally when I post a review, I include a link in the image so curious readers may order it from Amazon, or, if not, a link to the publisher. However, Bongo Comics does not appear to operate a web site (?!?!), so the link goes to the SNPP fan site. If you'd like to read this comic, and you should, please stop by a local comic book shop and ask for it by name!)

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