I love fall.  It’s my favorite season.  I melt a little in the summer, so autumn cools down my brain, and I get to wear all sorts of sweaters and hoodies like a hipster.  But it also means that winter is right around the corner, as well as the end of another year.  The latest issue of The Muppet Show Comic Book (yeah, I’m still calling it that, despite the fact that it just says “The Muppets” on the cover) is pretty representative of that notion, as it’s the penultimate issue of the final miniseries, without much hope for more Muppet comics on the horizon.

But I’m not gonna let that get me down!  I’ll cry about it next week.  And yeah, there’s gonna be some serious tears coming out of my face.

First things first, let’s talk about this cover.  It’s disappointing enough that Roger Langridge’s covers aren’t being used, but the new cover artists (credited to Elisabetta Melaranci and Mirka Andolfo) obviously only had the comic’s title to go on and never saw a page of this issue.  Not only does nothing remotely like what’s happening on the cover happen in the comic, but the characters don’t even go outside.  It’s actually a pretty nice cover, but I’ll always wonder what Langridge would’ve come up with had he not announced that he’ll never work for Marvel (or DC) again.

Any-hyoo, the surprise star of this issue is none other than Pops, who is long overdue for a little spotlight of his own.  Aside from his doorman duties during the fifth season of The Muppet Show, Pops has really only been front-and-center for a few Muppet Show skits (“Puppet Man“, “Once in Love with Amy“, and a hypnosis sketch) and, of course, “Happiness Hotel”.  It’s also great timing, as Pops’ original performer, Jerry Nelson, has been a topic of conversation lately.  This may be the first good reason for the comic’s delay, as the timing makes for a very nice memorial to Jerry.

It seems that Pops, like most old people (I’d imagine), has no idea how old he is. But the Stage Doorman’s Union knows, and he’s being forced to retire.  Despite hardly interacting with him at all over the past few decades, none of the Muppet troupe wants him to go, so they set off on a few harebrained schemes to get him to stay.  Chief among them is a search for a replacement birth certificate, and somehow that task lands on Miss Piggy’s head.

As always, the issue is riddled with Muppet Show-esque sketches.  Rizzo waxes poetic about cheese, the Swinetrek crew visits a planet of leaf creatures, and Pops leads the cast in an autumn-themed sing-along.  The best interstitial was Pops’ flashback to his army days, with Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, and Scooter as his fellow soldiers and Sweetums as his drill sergeant.  Only one sketch fell completely flat for me, which was another poem by “The Bard Topaz”, a small Scottish fellow who eventually fills the stage with “autumn mist”.  It wasn’t the most Muppety thing ever, and it’ll end up being the only forgettable page in the entire issue.  Which, frankly, isn’t a bad percentage of the whole.

Another highlight in this issue is the always-reliable pairing of Piggy and Gonzo.  As Miss Piggy searches for her birth certificate, Gonzo ends up suffering the raw end of her frustration.  Honestly, I love it any time these two get together, whether Gonzo is professing his unfounded love for Piggy or if she’s just generally disgusted at his existence.  Gonzo feels no pain, which makes him the perfect target for the world’s strongest pig, emphasis on the “perfect”.

One interesting note: I noticed that this comic only has two advertisements at the beginning of the issue (and then a few more after the story is over).  That seems a little unprecedented, though it does make for a much smoother, commercial-less reading experience.  As if we’re watching this episode on DVD as opposed to on TNT or something.

Kudos to Roger Langridge for giving us another classic.  It’s just everything I hope for from a comic like this: Funny skits, C-list character spotlights, and most importantly, that classic Muppet Show feel.  It makes me sad to think about the fact that we only have one issue left, even though it’s the Christmas issue, and Christmas is the best.  Aw man, I’m starting to tear up already.  Look away, look away.

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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com

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