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.
Archie’s Double Digest #201 (Archie Comics)
By Melanie J. Morgan, Norm Breyfogle, and others
Word begins to spread across Riverdale that Archie’s father has been transferred and the Andrews clan will soon be moving away. In this second part of the story, we see how Archie’s friends react to the news that he’ll be gone forever. In most cases, the reaction is just what you expect, although Morgan throws us a nice little curve ball with Reggie. Meanwhile, a subplot begins involving Archie, Betty and Jughead discovering that one of their childhood picnic spots has become a polluted dumping ground, prompting them to begin considering cleanup options. I’m not entirely sure where this subplot is headed — in a story of this nature, it pretty much has to link to the main plot, but I’m not really sure how that’s going to work. Norm Breyfogle‘s artwork is surprisingly well-suited to the Archie kids. They’re all recognizable without being beholden to the classic house style of the comics. The rest of the Double Digest is filled with a wealth of comics from the past several decades, including some nice Little Archie stories, a gender-swapped Tarzan riff, and a look at the Archie crew in the year 2085 (no doubt 100 years from the original publication of that story). Some of the stories, as always, are better than others. The main tale is pretty good, though.
Title: Meet Kevin Keller!
Writer: Dan Parent
Pencils: Dan Parent
Inks: Rich Koslowski
Colorist: Digikore Studios
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Cover Artist: Dan Parent
Editor: Victor Gorelick
Publisher: Archie Comics
Archie Comics made a big deal out of giving Kevin Keller his own “miniseries,” but that’s not technically the case. Rather, they’re giving him the spotlight for four issues of Veronica and doubling up the numbers. (Officially, this is Veronica #207, but it’s also labeled as Kevin Keller #1.) In this issue, two old friends of Kevin’s from his younger days come to Riverdale for a visit with the traveling army brat, just in time to help everyone get ready for the big Fourth of July parade and tell everybody how awesome Kevin is.
Honestly, that’s what happens in this book, and in so doing, it commits not one, but two cardinal sins. First, and most obvious, there’s no real story here. It’s basically just Kevin’s friends telling stories about him. There’s no conflict or struggle, save for a quick gag about Kevin and Jughead in a pie-eating contest and a short scene in which Kevin is worried how his father will react when he comes out to him. All of this could easily be fodder for good stories, but what little tension the writer manages to create always evaporates immediately.
This gets us to the second problem: Kevin himself. For a character that brought Archie Comics a wealth of media attention, he is mind-numbingly boring. Honestly, the stories his friends tell us amount to the following:
- When he was a kid, Kevin suffered from bad teeth and acne, problems that disappeared when he entered high school. Despite his newfound hunkiness, he didn’t ditch his old friends.
- He took a friend to a junior high dance to protect her from a jerk that tried to hurt her feelings.
- His parents love him, and always have, and always will.
- He’s going to join the military, and everybody is proud of that.
And it all adds up to a great big ball of, “so what?” I get what Dan Parent is trying to do with this character: he wants to make him a well-rounded character that escapes all of the traditional gay clichés and stereotypes. And that’s good. That’s even admirable. But he’s simply gone too far in the other direction. Kevin, as presented in this issue, is a character utterly without fault, and I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, male, female, black, white, or a cocker spaniel, it’s dull to read about somebody who’s perfect. Even in the squeaky-clean world of Riverdale, most of our characters have faults: Archie is a chronic screw-up and indecisive, Veronica is spoiled, Betty is a bit of a pushover, Jughead is a glutton, Reggie is a jerk… I could keep going here for a long time, because over the decades these characters have been introduced, the writers have found niches for them that include character faults that provide easy avenues for storytelling. Kevin has no such faults, resulting in a story bereft of conflict, which is a story that any first-year creative writing student will tell you isn’t actually a story.
I’m always in favor of expanding the cast of characters in Archie’s universe, and I think there’s a place for Kevin Keller, but the writers are going to have to work a lot harder to make him feel like a character instead of just a bone to throw to a certain portion of the audience.
Title: Fantasy Flair and other stories
Writer: George Gladir, Mike Pellowski, Tom DeFalco, John Rose
Pencils: Pat Kennedy, Tim Kennedy
Inks: Mike DeCarlo
Colorist: Digikore Studios
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Cover Artist: Fernando Ruiz
Editor: Victor Gorelick
Publisher: Archie Comics
This issue of Betty brings us a whopping four all-new stories, which is pretty much the formula for some of them to suck. The first one, “Fantasy Flair,” is okay. Betty is lounging about reading back issues of Pureheart the Powerful, and begins to imagine life as the girlfriend of Archie-as-Pureheart. Being a superhero’s gal pal sounds like it’d be a blast, but Archie’s essential… “Archieness” begins to encroach on Betty’s fantasy, showing it to not quite be all it’s cracked up to be. Many of the weaker Archie stories across the board suffer from the same problem this one does – a lack of an actual story. There’s no plot here, no conflict, just Betty daydreaming for eight pages.
The second story, “Just Relax,” looks like it’s going to escape that trap, but quickly falls into the same problem. Betty’s summer job is wearing her out, and her father’s job isn’t much better. The Cooper family decides to take a vacation, and Betty invites Midge to come along. (I’m assuming either Veronica was on a ritzy vacation in Europe or – perhaps a little more entertaining – Betty is currently angry with her over some Archie-related shenanigan.) It’s a good set-up, but from there it’s just several pages expounding upon how Betty’s definition of relaxation differs from her father’s. Not… not really a story.
The third story, “Love the One You’re With,” is a bit better on this front. Written by Tom DeFalco, who has shown he knows a thing or two about writing teenagers, this story features Betty getting jilted (again) by Archie for a fancier date with Veronica. She turns to Dilton for a comforting shoulder, which leads Moose to make an observation about his little buddy that Betty would never realize and Dilton would never admit. You know that any time somebody tries to add a side to the Betty-Archie-Veronica love triangle it’ll only be temporary, but this is one time I think it may actually be interesting to play with it for a little while. If nothing else, it’s fun to see a story where Moose gets to be the smart one for a change.
Finally, we have “Shell Belle,” in which Betty and Jughead take a group of brownies to the beach and then help them out with an arts and crafts project. You know what, I take back what I say about the first two stories in this issue, this is a story with no plot. For heaven’s sake, the biggest word balloon in the story literally says “LET’S CLEAN UP OUR MESS!” Seriously. I suppose there’s an attempt here to give kids a project they can do at home, and you can probably use Betty’s instructions to copy their project if you really want to, but for those of us actually reading the comic, it’s unbearably dull.
Honestly, this isn’t a great issue, but it’s helped by good art throughout and a very interesting Dilton story.