Simpsons Comics Get Some Fancy Book Learnin’ is a collection of Simpsons comics that recast the famous yellow family in a variety of classic stories that range from Greek and Roman myths and legends to fairy tales to Biblical stories.
I’m not sure, but I suspect this book is a collection of backup short features from Simpsons comics that offer creators the opportunity to experiment with the franchise’s characters outside of their usual setting. Just like the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes that the Simpsons TV show used to run every Hallowe’en (do they still do that?), it’s fun to occasionally see the characters transplanted from their regular Springfield environment and pushed into more unusual roles.
However, just as I wouldn’t want to watch an entire season of Simpsons episodes that revolved around “imaginary stories” for the characters, it becomes a bit repetitive to read nothing but Simpsons-ised versions of established stories for an entire collection--which is not to say that these stories aren’t entertaining.
There are some very imaginative uses of the Simpsons cast here, and they often avoid the more obvious choices in favour of substituting slightly more unexpected characters into the established stories that they retell. We see Ralph Wiggum as Humpty Dumpty, Mr. Burns as the hero of “The Prince and the Pea,” and Seymour Skinner and Edna Krabappel as Antony and Cleopatra (although I guess that casting Homer as his Greek namesake was just too good an opportunity to pass up).
Crucially for a humour book, there are also plenty of enjoyable jokes. Some of them recall elements of the TV show, mixing the characterisation of the established Simpsons character with their adopted persona for comic effect. Others subvert the original stories, or parody some of the most famous versions of classic tales (for example, the design for Homer as Aladdin’s genie evokes the Disney design for the character).
The artwork is also perfectly solid, capturing the look and feel of the TV show but also adding new details or changes as demanded by the circumstances of the story (Bart’s outfit as Hercules is a neat ancient Greek take on his T-shirt-and-shorts combo). Yet somehow, despite some off-the-wall choices and effective gags, it becomes a little predictable to see classic story after classic story revisited with a Simpsons twist.
Perhaps this is a book that should be dipped into occasionally, and its stories enjoyed one- or two-at-a-time, rather than devoured in one sitting. If interspersed with other reading, it might help these stories to feel a lot fresher and funnier than they did when reading the entire collection from beginning to end.
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