Written by Doug Moench, Ian Boothby and Len Wein
Art by Mike Kazaleh, Tone Rodriguez and Dan Brereton
Bongo Comics, $4.99
The Halloween-themed “Treehouse of Horror” episodes tend to be the very best episodes of any given season of The Simpsons, and they’re usually still well worth tuning in for, even if, like so many Simpsons viewers past, you feel the show peaked years ago and that you’ve really seen all The Simpsons you need to see in this lifetime, thank you very much.
The same goes for the comics: Whether you’re a regular reader or a lapsed reader, or simply doing the comic shop equivalent of channel-surfing, Bongo’s annual Treehouse or Horror special is usually worth your attention.
This year’s is no different.
The highlight is the third and final of the stories in the over-sized annual, for which Bongo has enlisted the unlikely talent of horror comics maestro Daniel Brereton. His presence alone makes the book worth a flip-through, just to see how the simple, Matt Groening-derived character designs look once they’ve been filtered through the painterly, nightmare expressionism of Brereton.
The answer is appropriately weird: Their faces look or more or less on-model, if lit and sculpted more realistically than usual, but their bodies look so realistic that every panel of the story just looks wrong in an exicitingly off-kilter way.
In other words, its a perfect fit for veteran comics writer Len Wein’s Lovecraftian lark of a script, “Cthulhu? Gesundheit!” When Principal Skinner decides to punish Bart and Milhouse by locking them in their grade school’s forgotten, forbidden sub-library until they’ve managed to clean and organize it to his satisfaction, the boys stumble upon the abridged, Scholastic Books edition of The Necronmicon.
Bart, being Bart, naturally uses it to summon tentacled horrors to Springfield to exact revenge on all who have wronged him, until Cthulhu has permeated all aspects of the universe.
The other two stories feature more standard artwork and, incidentally, both feature Kang and Kodos as their ultimate antagonists.
The first, “Monster Mash-Up,” is written by another long-time comics writer, Doug Moench, and drawn by Mike Kazaleh. It features Homer stopping at a mysterious house in which every doorway seemingly leads to another world of familiar pop culture horror. It was the “free beer and doughnuts” sign outside that enticed him.
The second, “Alienated,” is written by Ian Boothby and drawn by Tone Rodriguez. A pair of mysterious new lunch ladies is providing the school children with food that’s nutritious and delicious…perhaps too delicious. It’s all part of a plot to take over earth, of course, but luckily earth has developed its own food-based defenses. While perhaps not as visually arresting as the freaky Brereton-does-Groening climax of the comic, Boothby’s story does feature the sort of broad cultural criticism wrapped in an equally broad gag that The Simpsons cartoon was always so good at delivering.