Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #15

Who would have thought that one of this week's best comics would be "Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror" #15, this year's annual Halloween-themed release from Bongo Comics? The reason why is pretty easy to figure out when you look at the credits page, which reads like a who's who of the independent comics scene with "Kramers Ergot" creator Sammy Harkham as the guest editor of this year's issue. Considering Matt Groening's roots in and affection for the indie comics' scene, it's surprising it's taken so long for this to happen. The results are fantastically funny and amusing as these creators have a lot of fun with what the "Treehouse of Horror" concept gives them license to do with the Simpsons concept.

As with the annual television episode, the "Treehouse of Horror" concept allows for stories that involve horror and parody and, basically, whatever is needed to tell the story and amuse people. The variety of stories in this issue is the advantage as some are just simple twists on standard "Simpsons" fare, while others are out there fantasies. In this case, that means a parody of "The Three Little Pigs," a story where Moe builds himself a woman, one where Milhouse just can't stop killing people, and a half dozen more. And every story is laugh-out-loud funny to boot.

The issue begins with Tim Hensley's hilarious twisting of the opening credits to "The Simpsons" as the characters reflect on how they keep dreaming those same events over and over again until it comes to a horrible conclusion and the words "Don't go home." Matthew Thurber and Kevin Huizenga follow that up with a fantasy about a world where the economic hardship of recent times leads to total societal collapse. The art here is a nice update of the standard Simpsons look since it features the kids a little older as they try and find the best place to squat: Mr. Burns's abandoned mansion. The story could have stuck to simple economy jokes, but goes way out there by throwing in a weird plant invasion plot that adds plenty of laughs.

Jon Vermilyea's short "C.H.U.M." is a nice little gag about Moleman becoming a monster thanks to toxic waste that ends unexpectedly with a Wiggum family reunion. "Mo' Bodies Moe Problems" is a nice twist on Moe's relationship woes with great use of Gil and Nelson for comedic effect, and probably the strip that would seem most at home as one of the segments in a "Treehouse of Horror" episode.

My personal favorite story is Ben Jones's "Boo-tleg," which has Apu and Sanjay kill off almost everyone in Springfield with poison bootleg candy and then replace the dead bodies with bootleg people that are hilariously wrong. Ralph's use of bootleg shampoo leads to the obvious, but still funny joke of "This shampoo smells like real poo." Jones's bootleg citizens are inventive and funny as Springfield becomes a very strange place to live -- and a city where dogs are hunted for their tasty, tasty meat.

An unexpected delight, "Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror" #15 is a must read if you want to spend half an hour laughing as the indie comics scene injects some much needed humor and weirdness to the concept.

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