Sunday, October 25, 2009

Archie's Double Digest #202, a review

Alright, here we go! Archie's Double Digest #202, Part 3 of "Archie Goodbye Forever" and other assorted goodness.

I've gotta say, this chapter is a marked improvement over the first two. The best thing about it? Betty is 98% less anguished than in the first two chapters, making her bearable if still sort of whiny.

I was off-base with my theory that cleaning up the bog would tie into Fred's promotion: win some, lose some I guess.

The bog cleaning scene is pretty interesting though. For one thing the "Scouts" that Archie is shepherding through the cleanup are dressed in a very paramilitary way. One full page panel shows 3 "Scouts" in dark uniforms cleaning up garbage. Their ballcaps hide their eyes, giving them that "lone
asssassin" look that John Cusak perfected in the late 90's, and they look more than a little sinister. One of them is picking up a car bumper, and it totally looks like a piece of weaponry. Seriously.

Then a bunch of Lodge Inc. employees show up to help, and they're all wearing matching uniforms with ballcaps obscuring their eyes. Weird.

The thrust of the story is that in small towns people are genuine and good, and in bigger cities they're all douche bags. The Andrews' go to look at houses in Martinsville, and the realtor lady is a bitch, the neighbours are dicks and none of the houses have the charm of their little box back in that great little town. If this story were a movie, Jimmy Stewart would play Fred. The big cliff-hanger is that Fred and Mary overhear Archie tell Betty on the phone that he can't keep pretending to be happy about the promotion, and he doesn't want to move. Fred and Mary are drawn all surprised, but come on. Arch has been a mopey, depressed lump for pages.

I find the military imagery combined with the heartland story interesting. Perhaps an under the radar way to link good old American values with the military? Hmmmm.

"Animal Antics" is a reason to rejoice. Standard one page gag, but Ethel has her buckteeth. Granted, it's a masquerade party and she's dressed as a rabbit, but still. It's been years since we saw those beaver teeth, and it was nice that they found a way to sneak them in again.

"No News is Good News" is mildly interesting, mainly because it adds Jacko the Magical Jackass to the standard Archie/Hiram dynamic.

"Our Pandas Are Missing" is about, well, missing Pandas. Pandas are lent to the Riverdale Zoo because Hiram is such an amazing philanthropist. What? Since most of the stories in this digest have some mention of how small Riverdale is, it seems surprising that they have a zoo, much less one that would get lent pandas. And I hate the title, I mean come on. "Our Pandas Are Missing"? It breaks my heart to see an Archie story where no effort was put into the title. And the last panel gag? Jug says that pandas wouldn't be in danger of dying off if they stopped eating bamboo (which is in limited supply) and started eating burgers. Har, har, har.

"Ghost of a Chance" is a rarity: A Little Archie story that doesn't make me want to lobotomize myself. Seriously, does anyone like Little Archie? Most of the L.A. stories are crap, and there was an art style that started in the late 90's for L.A. that just makes my eyes bleed. If you've gotta put some L.A. stories in a digest can't they at least be vintage reprints? Like "Ghost of a Chance". The best part of this story is Evelyn Evernever is in it, and I love Evelyn. The poor (literally) girl with a huge imagination, she gets very little play these days, but is always a welcome addition.

While we're on Little Archie, does anyone know what became of Spotty? I've never read a strip that alludes to Spotty's fate, but he's always in Little Archie strips and never in normal continuity. I mean, obviously he died, that's kind of what dogs do at some point. I've just always wondered if somewhere there's a "very special" strip that deals with Spotty shuffling off this mortal coil.

"The House on Oak Street" is a bit craptacular, but it starts with a clear definition of how small Riverdale is. According to this story Riverdale has "three movie houses, one video store, two drug stores and one fire station". This is exciting simply because I've never seen a story where they get so specific about the town. Aside from this little nugget of Archiana though, the story is a wash. Archie helps old man, everyone thinks Archie is great, blah, blah, blah.

"Comic Relief" is monumental for the fact that (in flashback) it shows Fred hanging out with Ricky Mantle. Not only have I never seen these two hang out, but it's the first time I've seen Reggie's Dad identified in print as Ricky. Huge, huge, huge. And Fred hanging out with him? This will be a day long remembered.

And finally I feel the need to talk about "Spirit Sprites", a story that left me reeling for minutes. First up is an appearance by everyone's favourite upwardly mobile character, Adam Chisholm. At first he's mentioned but not seen, so I was worried it may be a different Adam, a generic Adam. But no, no, no, it's our Adam. Even more monumental? Adam is hanging out with Raul, and Claude is nowhere to be seen! I know! I've never seen Claude and Raul separated. Perhaps this is all part of Adam's play to get into a higher tier. Maybe Adam thinks that having his own supporting cast (poached from Archie's ignored "friends") will help to keep him in focus and lead to more panel time. I don't know. I do know that Mr. Chisholm is ambitious, and with his drive, brown hair and undefined personality traits he has a good shot at second tier.

I just hope he's not delusional enough to think he can hit first tier. Sorry Adam, I'm your biggest fan, but you just don't have what it takes to hit the big time.

All in all, a fine double digest. I could have used some 40's and 50's reprints, but there were some nice 70's strips (especially one featuring Chuck, boxing and women's lib), some OK 80's strips and too many 90's strips. I like that the whole digest had an over-all theme, this is a rarity (the theme being Riverdale as a really small town, and how nice that is) and a welcome concept.

It's nice that "Archie Goodbye Forever" is surpassing my (very low) expectations. Hopefully part 4 will continue this trend.

1 comment:

  1. I'd say Bob Bolling's Little Archies have at various times been better than the parent company's stuff (most obviously in some parts of the early '60s, but also when he came back to the series in 1979). So yeah.

    "Ghost of a Chance" is Dexter Taylor, though. He did most of the Evelyn Evernever stories, and they're leaps and bounds ahead of his later work.