Title: Time Keeps on Slipping Part Four-Duplicity
Writer: Ian Flynn
Pencils: Chad Thomas
Inks: Gary Martin
Letters: John Workman
Colors: Matt Herms
Cover Art: Patrick “Spaz” Spaziante
Editor: Paul Kaminski
Publisher: Archie Comics
Things look bad for Mega Man. He and his buddies, the first wave of Robot Masters, have managed to track down Dr. Wily and his new robots to their secret hideout, only for him to regain control of our friends. Now, Mega Man and Special Agent Rosie Krantz have eight Robot Masters to face down if they’re going to save his sister, Roll, from becoming another of Wily’s pawns.
The interesting thing here is that I honestly find my synopsis of the issue – while accurate – wholly inadequate. Ian Flynn is doing a great job with this title, telling a story that, on the surface, is the sort of screwy sci-fi superhero adventure that we would have seen back in the Silver Age. Once you chip past the surface, however, we’re given a comic that has surprising depth of emotion. Rock (Mega Man’s “secret identity,” such as it is) is faced with some interesting moral and ethical quandaries here, and the nature of sentience and life itself is a topic of serious and legitimate discussion for this title.
At the same time, Flynn brings the funny. There’s a great little moment, for instance, when Roll has to remind her brother that he should be hunting down Wily, which leads to a nice little comedy beat. The book isn’t a full-on comedy, of course, but there’s enough funny in here to keep the kids entertained.
Chad Thomas and Gary Martin have crafted a style for this title that borrows a little from American animation, a little from Japanese Anime, and a little from the style of the video games themselves to create a comic that looks… well… it’s not unique, and it’s not unprecedented. But it’s effective and it fits the family of these characters. It looks right.
Mega Man has been a surprisingly emotional and entertaining addition to the Archie Comics family.
Archie’s Double Digest #203 (Archie Comics)
By Melanie J. Morgan, Norm Breyfogle, and others
Archie Comics is reportedly going to retire the “new look” experiment after the next story runs in Pals ‘n Gals Double Digest, which I personally think is a shame. There have been some interesting stories told in this format, and this one isn’t too bad. As the Andrews search for a new house in Martinsville, Archie accidentally lets it slip to his father that he doesn’t want to move away from Riverdale. As the Andrews sit down for an important family meeting at a hauntingly familiar diner, the rest of the gang back in Riverdale decide to throw the Andrews the greatest going-away party of all time. The end of this story is somewhat predictable — not only do we get the expected result, but it comes about pretty much exactly as we would have expected. The scene in the “Bizarro Pop Tate’s” diner is funny, though, and helps elevate the story a bit. The rest of the digest, as usual, is full of short stories from Archie’s 60-plus year deep catalogue, and as always, they’re of varying quality. We do get a nice little block of Little Archie stories, which speaks to the child in me quite strongly. Overall, it’s a fun little book and a solid, if not shocking, way to end the “Goodbye Forever” story.
Compilation Editor: Paul Castiglia
Publisher: Archie Comics
Archie Comics routinely reprints their classic stories in their digest format, but it’s nice to see that they give some of their stories a more permanent home as well. This paperback from 2002 collects several Christmas stories from over the years. Unfortunately, there are no credits provided, which isn’t that big a surprise as a lot of those old stories never ran with credits at all.
Along the way se wee a lot of the classic Archie tropes – his clashes with Mr. Lodge as he tries to get in good with his girlfriend’s family, for example. We see Archie and Reggie get in trouble trying to play Santa Claus, and we even see the first two appearances of Jingles, one of Santa’s helpers who has become an almost-annual visitor to Riverdale over the years.
Some of the stories do tend to repeat themselves, however. There are no less than three stories about Reggie trying to use the Christmas season as an excuse to make time with Big Moose’s girl, Midge, and two of those are focused on Moose’s lack of understanding of how Mistletoe works. It wasn’t such a big deal when the comics were originally produces, I suppose, coming out years apart from one another. Seeing them in the same collection does kind of drive home the idea that Archie has a history of recycling ideas. Fortunately, they’ve gotten a lot better about that in recent years, doing some new things and bringing in new characters and situations to spice up life in Riverdale. I hear tell there’s a new Archie Christmas paperback available this year. I haven’t been able to find a copy yet, but if I can get one by next Christmas, I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on that one with you.
Archie #602 (Archie Comics)
By Michael Uslan and Stan Goldberg
Archie and Veronica announce the impending birth of their child to a bevy of friends and family. Everyone’s got their own reaction, from soon-to-be godmother Betty to substitute lamaze partner Jughead, and when the little bundles of joy finally arrive, things couldn’t be better for Archie Andrews. Or could they? At the beginning of this story, Michael Uslan set up what appeared to be the big mama-jama reset button of all time. At the end of this issue, it turns out that it wasn’t a reset button, but a device that plays out here, in the middle of the story. I think Archie Comics may have jumped the gun on the publicity for this storyline, as we see here that the whole point of this was not to marry Archie off to Veronica, but to explore possible futures. I’m definitely interested to see what happens next, but I think that guy who sold off his Archie #1 out of protest may have acted a little too rashly.
Title: Oh, Christmas Transporter, Oh Christmas Transporter and other stories
Writers: Dan Parent, Paul Castiglia, Bill Golliher
Pencils: Dan Parent, Bill Golliher
Inks: Jon D’Agostino, Pat Kennedy
Colorist: Barry Grossman
Letterer: Bill Yoshida
Cover Artist: Dan Parent
Editor: Scott Fulop
Publisher: Archie Comics
While Archie Comics, much to their credit, is doing some really interesting things with their comic books in the here and now, in the early 1990s they were trying a lot of fun things as well: new characters, new concepts, and new twists on their formula. None of them really stuck, but for people of my age who were reading Archie at the time, there’s a nostalgia factor here that makes me glad I can still find copies of stuff like Archie 3000 in the ether.
This issue of the title which re-cast Archie and company a millennia in the future is their Christmas special. Archie (the 3000 version) and the gang are knee-deep in Christmas shopping, which in the year 3000 seems to be done exclusively via the Home Shoppin’ Teleportation Network. (Boy, if they could have foreseen the Internet, huh?) Even Santa Claus uses teleportation these days, something which frustrates the parents of Riverdale, who evidently are old enough to remember the days when he delivered presents by hand. Whether this means that teleportation technology is still relatively recent in the year 3000 or that advances in medical technology have allowed the parents to live for hundreds of years is never really made clear. Anyway, when an atmospheric disturbance knocks out the whole planetwide teleportation network, both Archie and Santa Claus will have to do Christmas old-school. The book is fun, but like so many visions of the future, when you look back on it a few years down the line, it seems terribly, hysterically quaint.
Very few Archie Comics have just one story, though, so let’s look at the back-up features, non-Christmasy they may be. In “Squirm Assignment,” Archie and Dilton have a big sociology assignment due for school, and Archie makes do with a Dict-o-Text, a device that is intended to help focus one’s mind and structure a report, but runs the risk of just creating the entire presentation if you let your mind run away with it. I’m pretty sure you can guess where this is going. The story was funny, in a “Jetsons” kind of way, and led up to a good punchline.
And in “Teleportation Troubles,” Archie gets himself into classic trouble when he has dates with both Betty and Veronica at the same time. This being the year 3000, though, when travel is evidently much cheaper, the dates are actually on opposite sides of the continent. With a little help from Dilton, Archie tries to teleport back and forth between the two, with again, predictable results. Not a bad story, but pretty standard – you could do a contemporary Archie story with Dilton building a teleportation device and have the same effect, and it would be more impressive since we hadn’t read another story based entirely around teleportation eight pages earlier.
I do still have a fondness for this old series, though, and for the others of its era: Jughead’s Time Police, Archie’s R/C Racers, Faculty Funnies, Dilton’s Strange Science, Explorers of the Unknown… there were some gems there. It’s a shame that we don’t see their like anymore.
Betty and Veronica #231 (Archie Comics)
By George Gladir, Mike Pellowski, Kathleen Webb & Jeff Shultz
The Archie gang gives us a quartet of Christmas-themed stories this month, all with fine art by Jeff Shultz, with different writers passing the stories back and forth. George Gladir takes the lead with “The Shoppers,” in which the girls have finished their online Christmas shopping only to discover at the last minute that they’ve forgotten to get a present for Jughead’s sister, Jellybean. With no time left to log on, the girls risk life and limb at the mall. Mike Pellowski‘s “Santa Shortage” is a really cute story featuring the girls trying to find a last-minute replacement Santa Claus for a charity event, and wind up with more than they bargained for. Kathleen Webb‘s “Are You Sure?” is the only non-Christmas story in the book, and also the weakest. Veronica announces Betty that she and Archie have gotten married, sending Betty into a panic with a sort of cliched ending. Webb redeems herslef with “Pretty is as Pretty Does,” though in which Veronica tries to explain her overboard makeup style to her best friend, and lets a big secret slip to the readers. This is a nice issue, fun for people who like to overload on Christmas comics. Y’know, people like me.
Archie #601 (Archie Comics)
By Michael Uslan & Stan Goldberg
The wedding of Archie and Veronica hits Riverdale by storm. The marriage of Riverdale’s most famous socialite brings in visitors, ties up traffic, and arrests all the activity in the small town — except for a heart-to-heart between Betty and Veronica. Uslan’s writing improves this issue. Although he already had a strong grasp on who the characters are, his dialogue is considerably better, except for a rather schmaltzy speech by Jughead at the wedding. Okay, it’s a wedding, so you expect some schmaltz, but this is enough that it feels out of character. Anyway, the focus on Archie and Veronica continues, but the side characters aren’t ignored either. Reggie gets a nice moment, and there’s a nice bit with the faculty of Riverdale High. The reset button set up last issue is still there, and Uslan deftly sidesteps any less than family friendly moments one would normally associate with a wedding storyline (the bachelor party, for instance), but the story is getting better.