Whether we like to admit it or not, The Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons is one of the most damningly accurate archetypes found within comics fandom. The surly, sarcastic, overly-entitled store proprietor is a slightly skewed reflection of all comic readers, and for that reason, he’s a way for us to acknowledge, commiserate, and laugh at the worst aspects of ourselves. Which makes it all the more surprising that he hasn’t had his own comic up until now.
The problem here, though, is that despite what the title says, this isn’t really a “Comic Book Guy” comic. Following his “death” in the opening issue, the series has turned towards the topic of characters trying to fill the gap he left -- Marge taking over the Android’s Dungeon, for example -- but in doing so, it squanders the immense value of the name on the masthead and becomes just another Simpsons comic.
The Simpsons Comics have always had a slightly nerdier edge than the TV show. This issue is no exception, thick with references (the cover alone covers Spider-Man, Captain America, Tron, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Wars and more) as well as the most obscure corners of the Simpsons Universe (Happy Little Elves, anyone?). Its audience will doubtlessly appreciate it. The jokes, too are of a reasonable quality, although they do require you to mentally fill in the actor’s delivery to work properly.
Unfortunately, the story itself bounces around without a huge amount of focus. The component parts are fine. Bart’s quest for a new hobby culminates in an unusual instructional knitting section. Marge’s “Little Margie” dream sequence is charmingly nostalgic. But, as a whole, it’s not really complete (even if taken as the third chapter in five). Structurally, it’s more like a Halloween anthology episode, but without any unifying theme. It’s not actually an anthology, either. If it were, that would at least be understandable.
There’s very little need to critique the art of a Simpsons comic, since they all stick fairly rigidly to the expected look of the show, although the early pages make some odd use of shadow which disappears (for the better) in the final pages. Aside from that, the comic timing is reasonably effective and the storytelling is clear and evocative of the TV series. It's hard to complain.
But that’s the problem: It’s hard to complain about this book, but it’s also hard to praise. As long as you accept the contradiction of there being very little Comic Book Guy in the issue, it’s diverting enough to justify the cost. But compared to some of the utter classic, TV-episode-eclipsing Simpsons Comics I’ve read over the years, it falls far short. But, of course, let’s not be too disappointed, because I wouldn’t be a Comic Book Guy myself if I wasn’t reading it and secretly thinking that I could do better.