Who would've thought that the most surprising book I've read in weeks would turn out to be a Simpsons comic? I got a review copy of Bart Simpson to the Rescue! in the mail last week, and I read it with rock-bottom expectations. I haven't watched The Simpsons in years, and I expected the books to revel in years of continuity and jokes from the golden years of the TV show. Instead, I opened the book and found a whole bunch of my favorite comics creators from the 1990s. Rescue is made up of short comics stories by names any alternative comics fan would appreciate. Carol Lay contributes a story about Lisa becoming stricken with a bad case of the stupids. Peter Kuper's story about Bart becoming an amnesiac Charlie Chaplin ends with the same social commentary that Kuper has always brought to his comics. Gilbert Hernandez tells a truly weird story about Lisa discovering a paradisiacal field where everyone appreciates her. Sure, these are licensed comics, but the various cartoonists deliver stories that play to their strengths, and their art is immediately recognizable as their own. It's an entertaining, Mad Magazine-style book that would serve as a sly way to indoctrinate kids to some great cartooning talent.

Batman '66 is a much more traditional licensed comic: It's based on the old live-action Batman TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward. The book is packed with short, punchy episodes featuring villains from the TV show like the Mad Hatter and Egghead, and Batman is prone to giving corny speeches about responsibility and expository dialogue like this: "Those thieves in the flying hats have stolen the crown jewels of England! I must catch up to them!" It's a loving approximation of the old TV show by some sharp contemporary talent (writer Jeff Parker is excellent at relaying information in a way that keeps readers of all ages interested, and one story is illustrated by the wonderful, underrated cartoonist Ty Templeton). Batman comics have been such a gory mess lately—I want to enjoy Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's run on Batman, but the wholesale butchery of their Joker story and the total lack of fun has been a huge turn-off. This is a fun all-ages exception to that rule; in fact, if you're looking to buy comics for the Batman-loving kid in your life, this is essentially the only Batman comic on the stands right now.