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Life With Archie: The Married Life #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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Archie #606 [Review]

Yesterday Today Tomorrow / Career Weak / Unflappable

Scripts: Michael Uslan, Angelo Decesare, Craig Boldman
Pencils: Stan Goldberg
Inking: Bob Smith
Lettering: Jack Morelli
Coloring: Glenn Whitmore
Managing Editor: Mike Pellerito
Editor/Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick
Cover: Dan Parent
Published by: Archie Comics

Archie is one of those comics that seems to stick to a status quo far moreso than any other comics I can think of offhand–even more than super-heroes such as Superman or Batman, which can seem to at least take a year or two to deviate from status quo now and again.

I picked up Archie #600 not solely because of being a legitimate milestone (no reboots, restarts, disassemblings, etc en route), but because it was the first of a 6-issue story. Unlike the digests the publisher puts on regulalry, this wasn’t just some “theme” for a bunch of gag shorts and whatnot–it was six issues of full-issue-length ongoing story featuring the Archie mainstays. Archie of course, Betty, Veronica, their families, Jughead, Reggie, Moose, Midge, Pop Tate, Principal Weatherbee, and the other usuals. We’re familiar with them, we know who they are and what they’re about, and they can carry full-length stories.

This issue bills itself as an Epilogue, as a “Part 7,” whereas the Archie Marries Veronica/Archie Marries Betty/Will You Marry Me? story was for six issues billed as __ of 6. So rather than jump off as intended with #605, I picked this up, because I thoroughly enjoyed the 6-issue arc, I figured one more issue of follow-up couldn’t hurt.

Boy, was I wrong on that. This issue returns to the multiple stories per issue, with the stories more gag-oriented and predictable than being solid character-drivin stories.

The main feature is the follow-up to Will You Marry Me, as the guys give Archie a hard time for his notion of having seen a future where he married each of the girls, and sees him booking a date with each for the same night, and the fallout from that when the girls bump into each other on their way to meet up with Archie. The next short sees a bunch of gags as Archie supposedly embraces different potential careers, to the distress of his parents. Being a diver, or a painter, a mechanic, or a zoologist are all things that would be interesting to see Archie embrace–I’d gladly read a series of issues where each one sees the kid attempt to get into these career paths–but they have no real depth as given here with just a page or two per idea. And the final short sees Archie going ga-ga over a new girl, and tries to do everything he can to annoy Veronica so that she’ll break their date, freeing him to go with the new girl guilt-free.

The art isn’t bad in this issue–it’s “standard Archie,” the visual style we’re all used to for the various characters…no complaint there. It’s the lack of serious, deep story combined with a cover that led me to expect another issue like the previous six that makes this issue quite a stinker. If you’ve been following this title solely for the “big story,” there’s no need to get this issue–it adds NOTHING to the previous six issues. If you prefer your Archie with short gag-driven stories, though…this one’s for you, and you can freely ignore the huge “Part 7” displayed on the cover. As for me, I’ll wait for the next longform “special” arc.

Story: 3/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 4/10

Archie #605 [Review]

Will You Marry Me? part 6 of 6 – Archie Marries Betty: “Happily Ever After”

Script: Michael Uslan
Pencils: Stan Goldberg
Inks: Bob Smith
Letters: Jack Morelli
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Managing Editor: Mike Pellerito
Editor/Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics

I bought into the hype from two angles. One…it was Archie #600…and the title had gotten there legitimately. No reboots or restarts and funky number-playing across multiple series that were intentionally made distinct for the purposes of renumbering, mistake or otherwise. Two…it was the story of Archie FINALLY choosing one of the girls, and doing the right thing by her. He was choosing Veronica, for better or worse (I’ve always rooted for Betty). So imagine my surprise when the story swerved at the end of Chapter 3, showing that instead of 6 issues of Archie marrying/being married to Veronica, we were actually getting two 3-parters under the banner of “__ of 6.”

Also of note is the title of the story. I’d initially thought it was “Archie Marries Veronica” based on the cover; but as said above, obviously that changed halfway through. This issue states on the cover “Archie Marries Betty” and the chapter title, as well as the “Part 6 of 6.” Inside the issue, however, we find an ad for the graphic novel Archie in “Will You Marry Me?” billed as “The complete 6-issue story arc!” at the top of the page. There’s also the fact of that ad existing–here, in the final issue of the story, the company is trying to get the reader to order the collected volume of the story they’re holding. Sure, I expected this–I bought these single issues despite knowing full well there’d be a collected edition–I had to wait for that edition on the recent Freshman Year arc, and if they collected that I knew they’d collect this. Still…the Archie books being what they are, chances are that many people buy just a random issue here and there, and so would not have all 6 chapters.

“Gripey” as that may sound, it’s not much of a gripe. This is a decent conclusion to a decent story. Why it’s not “great” is that it’s something that can’t truly matter long-term in the Archie comics without radically altering the status quo and the nature of the series. This puts me in mind of the silver-age Superman stories focusing on one of many alternate Earths; such as the one with the “Super Sons” or any where Superman actually married Lois. So, this is an “imaginary story” within the Archie universe. And as has been said of these “imaginary stories”… “Aren’t they all?”

Archie and Betty have returned to Riverdale after their year away…both to teach at the high school. They reunite with old friends, and discover a number of other changes. Jughead and Midge are married (and Jughead bought Pop’s as Pop was retiring); Moose is calm and mature…and Reggie and Veronica just got engaged. The story follows the young couple dealing with these events, and then the birth of their twins, Veronica and Reggie’s wedding, as well as life afterward–dealing with “grown-up stuff” in the form of juggling work, the kids, and some sort of social life. And then the story ends on the reverse note the 6-parter opened with…perfectly fitting.

The story is fairly simplistic and formulaic, of course. There’s some drama, but nothing that’s really drawn-out (if it were, I could imagine this one issue getting stretched to 6 issues itself!). There’s a lot of character stuff and forward momentum, and even time for that ending. While hardly complex–and certainly not apologetic about the means by which the story was achieved and then left behind–I really don’t feel cheated nor let down. Heck, this story is one that would make a great tv mini-series of sorts…basically do a pair of movies that make the one big movie. One movie for each of the girls as the bride of Archie. It’d be great if the story was “timeless,” but there are some elements thrown in that date the story–including a reference to “stimulus money,” which firmly roots this in the present. Aside from those references, though, the story is fairly timeless, not actually giving any hard dates for things…just a walk on Memory Lane.

The art is standard Archie style; none of the “New Look” stuff (good as those stories are). The only real complaint I have with the art is the cover–something about Archie’s proportions seems “off” a bit, and overall, he doesn’t look quite right, and I’m not sure why.

I don’t recommend specifically seeking this issue out if you haven’t either been following since #600, or #603. However, if you’re at all a fan of Archie, Betty, and/or Veronica…I highly recommend considering the graphic novel.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Archie #601 [Review]

Archie Marries Veronica, part 2: The Wedding

Script: Michael Uslan
Pencils: Stan Goldberg
Inks: Bob Smith
Letters: Jack Morelli
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Managing Editor: Mike Pellerito
Editor/Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick
Cover: Goldberg and Smith
Publisher:Archie Comic Publications

Second issue in, and the story’s even better (perhaps because we’re into the thick of things, with no silly walk-UP-memory-lane as the vehicle to facilitate an “easy out” of this major story).

This issue sees the wedding itself of Archie and Veronica, with a lot of great moments, cliche though some may be. We see Archie and his groomsmen dealing with the woes of tux-fitting, while Veronica and her bridesmaids have a fitting of their own. The couple-to-be shares some concern over what their future is to be. Then we get the “core scene” of the issue in the wedding–with a double-page splash of the big moment, a couple of full-page shots, and then a montage (including the classic Archies’ song “Sugar, Sugar”) that perfectly captures “a wedding.” The tail end of the issue moves the story ahead a year as we find the newlyweds facing another new step in their lives as Veronica shares some significant news with her husband.

All told, there’s not too much to be said on the art on the surface. It’s got that classic Archie style to it, and all the characters seem perfectly recognizeable to me–even if I couldn’t tell you their names offhand, they’re visually familiar from one thing or another of Archie I’ve read in the past. The declaration of the newly married couple and the full-page panels that followed reminded me of the Superman Wedding Album issue and took me out of the story a bit, as I noticed these as being those (newly) “iconic” images that would seem more appropriate for marketing than within the pages of this story. Still, one does not really get to have those double-page splashes, even for huge/important moments in real life…so getting them in a comic isn’t that bad a thing–especially as double-page splashes or even a full-page image seem such a rarity for an Archie book (in fact, I can’t think of any Archie story in the past that has had such pages).

The story itself isn’t terribly complex…but it definitely rings true to life. I’ve been to a number of weddings the last few years as a number of friends have gotten married, and the montage found in this issue made it easy to connect to the characters and the experience. There’s still some drama and conflict…even questions…as the story goes along, but they seem to be the usual sort of human drama…wondering how relationships will be affected, or seeing the various relationships play out in the shadow of an event as important to two lives as a wedding is.

What struck me as particularly interesting with this issue is the Betty/Veronica relationship. The two have always been rivals–one might argue that the rivalry is built into the fabric of the characters themselves in the Archie-verse– but I’m not used to seeing them portrayed as having such meaning to one another…that this is played up a bit does great credit toward making the characters more well-rounded and believable.

All the good of the issue not to say it’s without cliche…there’s nothing particularly shocking–even the issue’s end (while done as a cliffhanger) is only natural in a story like this. The nature of the story at hand allows for such huge things since we’re invariably going to be returned to the status quo after this arc is complete. But while I’m confident I see what the ending will be since the beginning of the arc, the ride is still very enjoyable–so much so that I’m honestly probably going to be disappointed to see the status quo return.

Perhaps Archie comics are aimed at kids…but these are not “just” for kids by ANY means. I’m a 28-year-old male…and I’m enjoying this arc as much or more than most other comics I’m reading these days. If you can find the first isue of this arc, I highly recommend giving the story a chance…whether you’ve ever read an Archie book before or not, if you know anything of the characters, you should have no trouble following right along.

While the story and art taken alone don’t rank quite as highly…this issue’s rating is based on the whole, which is greater than the parts.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 9/10

Archie #600 [Review]

Archie Marries Veronica, part 1: The Proposal

Script: Michael Uslan
Pencils: Stan Goldberg
Inks: Bob Smith
Letters: Jack Morelli
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Managing Editor: Mike Pellerito
Editor/Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick
Cover: Goldberg and Smith

I missed out on the LAST “event” in the Archie title–Freshman Year. Though I ultimately snagged the collected volume, and generally prefer collected volumes…this was a story I decided I’d go ahead and try the single issue(s).

We begin at the end of the kids’ high school career–graduation day is upon them–and see them reacting to the impending changes to their lives. We get what seems to me an incredibly stupid/cliched plot device to hop a few years into the future to the gang all just about to graduate from college. With all the changes about to happen, Archie proposes to Veronica (who accepts) and the wedding-planning goes into full-swing while Mr. Lodge begins planning Archie’s job/career (having hired Archie to ensure the kid can afford to take care of his daughter).

The story is really pretty simple…but there’s a surprising amount of depth hinted at…stuff that probably won’t jump off the page at anyone, but for someone who has been through a high school graduation/friend-dispersal and two college graduations and all the changes that come with ’em…it’s easy to identify with the mood if not specific characters. I actually expected this story to be half an issue, tops…with some sort of backup shorts to fill the issue out…that this six-issue-arc would maybe be what I’d normally consider 2-3 issues’ worth of content as to the Archie-Marries-Veronica, anyway. Instead, this is the entire contents of the issue–from first page to last, it’s an ongoing narrative…something I’m not used to with Archie books.

THe art is really not distinctive…it’s in the classic “Archie style” (as opposed to the “New Look” that gives the characters a more real-world appearance). If you’ve seen any Archie comic, you probably know the “Archie style.” It’s what you picture when you think of the character or the supporting cast. Simplistic, sure, but the characters have their individual appearances that make them recognizeable if not downright iconic (such as Jughead with that crown of his). Given the classic style, that this doesn’t seem to break from that, I have no qualms whatever with the art…it simply is what it is, providing the look/feel I’m used to with Archie books.

On the whole, this was quite the enjoyable book. It’s been years since I’ve read any longform Archie stories (the shorts/one-pagers being what I’m used to from the occasional digest picked randomly in more recent years), and this issue has me chomping at the bit to see what comes next. That stupid/cliched plot device–while being what it is–is quickly forgotten as the real story kicks off (yet I’m pretty sure that plot device is going to be important to the resolution at the end of this arc–to restore the status quo I’m sure the publisher will not permantently deviate from.)

This would seem to be a great jumping-on point for new or lapsed readers as well as the ongoing readers. There’s also the fact that this is quite the anniversary issue–#600 to be exact–and said anniversary is celebrated by beginning this story, rather than by extra pages, variant covers, higher prices, or other what-have-yous. It’s a standard-size issue for the standard price ($2.50) which makes it quite a deal in the current comics market.

Highly recommended!

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 9/10

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