The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror—Dead Man’s Jest
story and art by Matt Groening, et al
Bongo Entertainment/Harper Collins, 128 p.
Middle School (age 12+/grade 6+)
It’s Halloween, so time once again for The Simpson’s Tree House of Horror special, complete with bad puns, nonsensical storylines, and, of course, special guest stars. This oversized anthology collects comics published over a wide span of years (1997, 2004, 2005, and 2008) and is as hit and miss as any anthology, but the wide variety of artists and stories means that it’s never a dull read.
“Squish Thing” is one of the stronger stories of the collection. It’s a clear retelling of the Swamp Thing story, right down to the art, but it also follows the tried-and-true Simpsons motif of Marge and Homer’s love persevering through all odds. “Bart Simmons, God of Thunder!” is cleverly written and the story most likely to cause challenges. Marge ends up meeting Gene Simmons at a KISS concert and one thing leads to another. The voice over dialogue could be taken as racy, but Marge’s innocence shows through in the pictures of what is actually taking place. That is one of the many stories in which there are self-referential jokes, a nice touch that Simpsons fans will find amusing. The whole anthology ends on a strong note with Alice Cooper’s story of tormenting Homer as a child, “The Legend of Batterface.”
There are secondary plot lines in two of the stories about comics, the comic industry, and the challenges to comics over the years. These jokes will probably go over the heads of younger readers, but they should get enough to find them funny. It’s also doubtful whether or not teen readers will know who Pat Boone or some of the other guest stars are, but again, they will still get the humor. Inserts between comic stories allow Bart time to tell readers how to craft a great haunted house or which candy to avoid. These are funny and add a touch of MAD Magazine to the whole book.
As is typical with The Simpsons, there’s a good amount of comic violence. Their Treehouse of Horror comics and shows tend to be bloodier than the usual episodes, with ghouls and beheadings, but it’s all very cartoonish and silly. Simpsons comics tend to circulate until they fall apart, so libraries will be happy to know that the binding for this oversized graphic novel feels tight and sturdy. A nice choice for libraries looking for horror silliness and a great selection for fans of The Simpsons.