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Life With Archie: The Married Life #2 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

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

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

The Rest of the Stack: Two Weeks of Other Books I’ve Read

Due to hitting the busy season at work, I basically took a week off from reviewing. With the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ve had a chance to catch up a bit. As usual, these are mini/”capsule” reviews of books I picked up but am not writing out a full review for. This post is double-sized due to covering TWO weeks’ worth of books.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Special #1
This issue’s a real treat. For the same price as a black-and-white issue of Tales of the TMNT, the issue is full-color. Best of all, it’s the classic #1 issue, now in color for the first time as a comic. (It’s been colorized at least once before, in the First graphic novel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Book I). The coloring looks quite natural, and it would have been awesome to see the original series re-issued in color…or at least, the first ten issues, the one-shots for each turtle, and Return to New York. For that matter, City at War as well. As-is, at the very least, this is a nice version of #1 to add to one’s collection without breaking the bank. Highly recommended for any TMNT fan, or anyone curious as to how the turtles’ story got started.

Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth #5
This issue continues the story of Deadpool, Zombie-head Deadpool and Dr. Betty facing Hydra agents trying to kill them to get the head themselves. A bit of cheesecake art to the issue, but that can be overlooked for an excellent scene in which Deadpool and Bill (not Bob–he insists he’s Bill, though Deadpool can’t seem to really tell the difference from his old buddy) have an exchange over the Star Wars series of movies. Suffice to say that reading this, one knows exactly where Deadpool stands regarding the trilogies. Overall another fun issue. I’m pretty sure the story wraps with issue 6, so at this point if you aren’t already following the book or able to get the first few issues, you’re probably just as well to wait for a collected edition. The story so far definitely seems well worthwhile for Deadpool fans, whichever way the story’s read.

Supergirl #47
This issue provides a good deal of backstory to Alura, and her courtship by Zor-El. We also see the character FINALLY acting out of real motivation that can be understood, instead of just coming off as a near-villainous witch of a character. Reactron is put on trial, and Alura is determined that he will be tried justly and not simply killed out of vengeance-seeking. Unfortunately, her fellow New Kryptonians don’t all share the sentiment, leading to some interesting character development. Though Supergirl is present in these pages, this is very much Alura’s story, with her daughter playing a minor role. The end of the issue has an interesting (in a way) revelation that does seem par for the course. Not a bad issue, but not wonderful. If you’re already following the title and/or the over-arching story in the Super-books, this’ll be just fine. It’s not really an issue to entice new readers, I don’t think. Not sure if it’s significant or just an oversight on someone’s part, but the cover lacks the “World Against Superman” banner the titles have been carrying lately, though this retains the red-shield numbering begun with August’s Codename: Patriot arc.

Flash: Rebirth #5
I’m pretty sure this started out as a 5-issue mini-series…I recall it seeming slightly “off” as I recalled Green Lantern: Rebirth being 6, and thinking the two ought to be pretty much the same length. This issue sees all the various speedsters team up, as well as a development that presumably “solves” whatever issue it was Wally’s kids were having with their powers…and we seem to have a new Impulse (given Bart gave up the identity to become Kid Flash back in 2003). This continues the “legacy” aspect of the Flash line. There’s a revelation that affects Barry’s past…as well as a very specific threat to his past. This is a sorta interesting issue, but on the whole, continues to be more “miss” than “hit” for me. GL: Rebirth dispelled my unease toward returning a long-dead character to an old status quo and really set up a great new status quo that worked everyone into the mix. This Flash: Rebirth has not at all sold me on any “WHY” Barry needs to be back, and simply puts things logically into place to ALLOW for the character being back, and incorporating pretty much everything else involving the Flash family of characters. Recommended if you’ve already invested in the first 4 issues of the series.

Uncle Scrooge #385
It’s great to be able to pick up this series now. I’d bought maybe 3 issues several years ago while it was being put out by Gemstone, but simply could not justify the $8 per issue, even if it was squarebound and double-ish-sized. This issue is fairly low-key, picking up from the previous issue. Scrooge, Donald, and the nephews continue to deal with Magica as she tries for Scrooge’s Number One Dime. Once things are wrapped up at the mine, Scrooge & Co. wind up looking for sunken treasure, and dealing with Magica AND the Beagle Boys. While not the greatest of comics, this is still a good, fun issue, and well worth getting if you’ve any interest in these characters.

Archie #603
The “Wedding Story” has taken a twist I didn’t expect: rather than being a 6-part exploration of Archie marrying Veronica, after 3 issues of that the story has switched to give us the story of what would happen if Archie married Betty instead. I’m really enjoying this “longform” story that not only takes more than a page to tell, but multiple issues. I’ve picked up the occasional Archie book through the years…but with stories like this, I might just stick around on a monthly basis.

Superman #694
This issue sees Mon-El’s “official” return to action as he re-reveals himself to the people who’ve thought him dead for awhile. This also debuts the “new” costume…which honestly seems a non-issue to me, despite the big deal being made of it. On the whole, it looks to me like the only difference is that Mon-El is now sporting a small “S-shield,” as he’s holding Superman’s place…and Blue shorts to contrast with the red costume (sort of a reverse-Superman color scheme). Probably the best part of the issue is the interaction with Connor and Ma, showing that Mon has a place within the Superman family of characters.

Image United #1
I have mixed feelings on this book. For one thing, something of this scale ought to have a huge multi-panel fold-out cover, such that all the primary characters are spotlighted…instead of one having to choose one of six segments of the picture as the cover to purchase. I chose the Savage Dragon segment, that character long being one of my favorite characters that I rarely read, though the Spawn cover was cool, too. The “jam session” of having each character’s creator doing that character’s visuals is a very cool thing, and a different take on doing a crossover project. The story itself seems to be a slow build and full of little but action (presumably to show off the blending of the different art styles). Being familiar with these characters for the past 16-17 years, the blended style worked well, and nothing really seemed all that jarring. Since this will surely be collected into a single volume eventually and my proclivity toward this type of variant/alternate covers…I’ll probably pass on the subsequent issues and snag the collected volume when that comes out, if I still have enough interest.

Son of Marvel Reading Chronology
This is one of those freebies that Marvel puts out on occasion, to try to hook one on buying more product. While I prefer the “Saga” issues (they’re free, and take far, far longer to read than any other single comics, and fill me in on stuff so I know what’s up overall without having to keep up on Marvel’s output in general), this guide is rather informative, showing what volumes are out there, in-print…and what they collect. As well as, of course, the order to read them for a chronological reading experience in-continuity. If nothing else, this has informed me that there are currently 10 hardcovers collecting Ultimate Spider-Man, so I know there are only 5 left that I want to try to track down. This is definitely a worthwhile guide if you can find it and not have to pay for it…or at least, please don’t pay much for it, as It is SUPPOSED to be FREE.

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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