- Posted by Johanna on October 31, 2009 at 12:34 pm
- Category: Archie Comics
It’s that weird time of year when there’s no time to enjoy Halloween comics before the Christmas ones start appearing. Before that, then, there’s
Archie & Friends #135
It’s a familiar story, best known to me from the Halloween episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but told with good cheer. Archie and his friends visit a new costume shop, where they become whatever they wear.
Now, there are several ways I thought this could have been improved:
- More modern costumes. I have a hard time believing all of these kids would pick the standard monsters — vampire, witch, wolfman, mummy — over something more up-to-date. But this does give the tale a timeless feel.
- More creativity. Both of the girls are witches? They couldn’t think of something different for one of them?
- I’d have liked to have seen the existing Archie witch characters instead of this new, undeveloped, magic-using villain.
- In fact, why isn’t friend Sabrina in this title at all? Goodness knows she’s not being used elsewhere.
But overall, it’s a nice bit of light entertainment for the holiday. Each character gets a gag based on their costume interacting with their personality. (Except for Reggie, whose fish-man appearance seems to have no affect at all on him.) The last-page punchline was the best part of the story — unexpected, suitable for the character, well-chosen for the premise, and funny, especially given the young audience.
And here we are at Christmas. It’s the conclusion of the imaginary story where Archie and Veronica marry — next issue, he’ll be marrying Betty. For some reason, they’ve been rushing through events in order to get to this point: Archie and Veronica have kids, which allows the heartwarming cover. It’s as though they think people aren’t really married until they’ve started spawning.
Like everything else in this storyline, the way they get there is predictable and boring. If you have ever seen a sitcom episode with a harried husband falling all over himself as he becomes a dad, you’ve gotten more entertainment than is on display here. There’s disrupting the Lamaze class, Veronica overeating, forgetting the wife in a panic when labor starts… Yawn. Some of the cartooning is bad as well: there’s a one-page sequence that’s meant to be physical comedy, but the artist didn’t bother to establish the physical layout of the room, so the events are hard for the reader to follow. The punchline, a broken cellphone, doesn’t go anywhere, so all in all, it’s just a puzzle.
That wasn’t the only bit that left me very confused as to why it was included. Mr. Lodge gets a Citizen Kane sled reference. We check in with Betty, who’s single, out of a job, can’t find a guy, and has no money, but none of that is followed up. None of her friends offer to help — instead, her sole function in the story is to be happy for Veronica’s pregnancy and miserable on her own.
Plenty of cliches, and nothing particular to these characters. This story could have been told with any set of young marrieds, and it probably would have seemed more original that way. What a waste of all this publicity.
Who’s proofreading these things? Page 1, first caption: “Dear Dairy”. She’s talking to cows now? Yet it’s right on her computer screen in the picture.
The story itself is about going back to school — first the worries, then shopping problems, wearing the same outfit as Veronica, tough teachers… It’s all rather generic, and much of it seems written more from a parent’s perspective than Betty’s. Overall, it’s a lot of griping. Perhaps the younger audience will better appreciate this sharing of their concerns than I did.
The last story in this issue tickled me. Jughead shows up wearing a superhero outfit — baggy tights, goggles, cape. When questioned about it, he tells Archie that it’s laundry day and everything else was in the wash, which leads to this exchange:
Archie: And you just happened to have a superhero costume in your closet?
Jughead: Doesn’t everyone?
It’s a nice indicator of Jughead’s character done right: a true individual who doesn’t mind what others think when he’s confident in what he’s doing. The rest of the story illustrates everyday heroism and responsibility. It’s a cute little tale.
This slim collection ($9.95 US, 96 pages) reprints four stories where Veronica travels to exotic locations: New York, Paris, Rome, and India. Bravo to the publisher for including credits! All these tales are illustrated by Dan Parent, but the writers vary: Hal Smith, mainstay George Gladir, Kathleen Webb, and Chris Allan and Mark Waid, of all people. I might have guessed the latter, since in the Rome story, Veronica’s roommate’s name is “Nasthalthia”, a name I’ve only heard before used as the moniker of Lex Luthor’s niece in the Supergirl stories beginning in Adventure #397.
The stories were originally run in Veronica in the late 80s, which is apparent if you pay close attention to the fashions and hairstyles. But the point is to feel like you’re visiting these cities yourself, with lots of time spent on listing tourist landmarks in each location. The plots — Veronica becomes a sculptor or catches a jewel thief or goes to school overseas — are just excuses to keep things moving fast. They’re fun, and it’s a nice way to feel like you’re traveling the world as a princess. It’s a great use of the character who too often writers don’t know what to do with.
(The publisher provided review copies.)