Archie #648

"Thor: The Dark World" opens in theaters next month, so it's probably no coincidence that Archie Comics picked this particular time to momentarily reinvent its title character as the "Clod of Thunder" in "Archie" #648, nor is it a coincidence that writer Tom DeFalco, who's no stranger to the Thunder God, is behind this lighthearted, funny and delightful parody rendered in the usual appropriate lighthearted Archie style by Fernando Ruiz and Rich Koslowski.

DeFalco, who has long brought a lighter and more traditional approach to comic storytelling during his days at Marvel, is an ideal choice to lend his talents to Archie Comics, especially a standalone that pays homage to a classic Marvel franchise. In DeFalco's tale, Archie Andrews is now Archie, son of Andrews the All-Father, and dwells not in Riverdale, but the hallowed halls of Allgood. Jughead the Hungry is a fitting counterpart to Volstagg the Voluptuous, and no one but Reggie Mantle could play the part representing Loki, God of Mischief.

The parody doesn't stop with character archetypes; DeFalco also puts a funny spin on Thor's classic origin story. Just as Thor found himself exiled to Midgard, Archie, Clod of Thunder, finds himself likewise exiled in the familiar world of Riverdale. But DeFalco doesn't forget he's still writing an Archie story; the character still has an eye for the ladies, whether while reveling in Allgood or marooned with mere mortals. The rest of the story seems to write itself, although it took DeFalco's idea to truly bring some clever similarities to light; take away the girth and the sword and give him a funny looking crown/hat, and Volstagg would probably be mistaken for Jughead on the street. And if Loki ever decided to walk the earth in mortal form, the first image that comes to mind is that of the conniving Reggie.

Of course, beyond the laughs brought on by these comparisons, there are plenty of simple gags and one-liners that are trademarks of most every Archie comic. Quotes like Reggie's "What fun is it to pull a practical joke on someone if they enjoy it?" and references to the All-Father as "The All-Flatulent" aim at various age demographics within this all-ages story, ensuring that there are laughs for everyone: young as well as young-at-heart.

Both Ruiz and Koslowski have pencilled and inked plenty of Archie stories, so they've both got the style down while managing to pull off a rather difficult task: keeping the generations-old look of the characters intact, while getting to dress them in some wild-looking Asgardian-esque costumes. And they succeed, and even throw in a few frost giants; something not seen too often in an Archie comic book. If the look of this story has another, more elusive sense of familiarity, it might be because it's been lettered by veteran John Workman, who perhaps is best known for his work with Walt Simonson during his their run on "Thor" three decades ago. In fact, Simonson contributed to the art on the variant cover for this issue.

Archie Comics are all-too-often overlooked by readers wrongly expecting humdrum instead of something truly enjoyable, but "Archie" #648 is a great example of the latter. Anyone who used to read Archies as a kid, or has yet to read any, will find this issue a great place to jump on.

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