Archie Comics - The Good, The Weird and the Ugly

Archie Comics have released an interesting mixed bag of comics in the last month, and I thought it'd be fun to take a look at three of the more notable projects - Archie's Camp Tales, Tales From Riverdale Digest #21 and Betty & Veronica Digest #152 (the second part of "Bad Boy Trouble").

The Good

Archies' Camp Tales is just the sort of fun collection that Archie Comics has become known for, repackaging a number of older comics set in camp and putting it all into one big digest for a reasonable price (about 110 pages of comics for $7.49) and at just the right time of the year (Archie Comics are always a popular item for kids to bring to camp during the summer, and a sturdier collection is probably better for a kid to bring than single comics).

The one drawback, and it is a notable one specifically by how simple it would be to avoid, is the sheer repetitiveness of the stories in the volume. Now don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the idea of the comics using the same basic story more than once over the years - Archie Comics are one of the few comic companies that still go by the old Golden Age rule of storytelling - if a story was good enough in Year X, it is good enough to be repated in Year X+5, when there are brand new kids reading the comics.

So that's fine.

However, when you sit down and put a collection together, you simply have to avoid putting these stories all back-to-back!!! Towards the back of the collection, there are three stories all with practically the same exact plot (two of which essentially ARE exactly the same). There is mention at the end of the collection that there is going to be a Volume 2, so it is clear that there are more than enough camp stories to fit this volume, so why not do a better job of putting the stories into each volume? Save some of the repetitive stories for a later volume, or, at the very least, don't put them in the comic literally BACK-TO-BACK! It just makes the similarities that much more glaring.

Besides that, though, this is a fun collection and a good idea by Archie.

The Weird

The most recent Tales of Riverdale Digest introduces a new kid to Riverdale - Raj Patel.

Without knowing anything else, I could have pretty much guessed what writer/artist Fernando Ruiz's story was going to be like, and I would have been right.

My guess would have been - A couple of positive stereotypes plus one unique interest for Raj that could be his "thing," like how the Hispanic girl is into fashion, the Asian girl is a reporter and the black guy is a cartoonist.

And in the actual comic - the Patels recently moved to Riverdale. The father is a medical doctor while the mother is a research scientist. Raj, meanwhile, is really into film-making, and constantly carries around a camera making movies.

Really, though, it's more dorky than it is bad, as you have to give Archie (and, to a degree, Ruiz, I suppose) credit for making the effort, ya know? They're at least TRYING to diversify, and at the same time, they don't want the characters to just blend into the background, so they are giving each one a distinctive character trait.

It's still pretty funny, though.

The story, by the way, is pretty good, as Ruiz uses Raj's home-movies to provide exposition about the Patels. Clever work there by Ruiz. And I like the bit about how Dr. Patel thinks Archie can help make his son more responsible - which Dr. Patel soon finds out was a sorry bet!

Oh, one last thing - there's this amusing bit where Raj tells Archie how easy it is to make clay models using wire as the basis for the clay models. It's funny because the point of the story is how easy it is, but the description really doesn't sound all that easy. Sounds pretty much just like making a model.

The Ugly

I mentioned this in a recent Cheers and Jeers, but I figure I might as well give it its own spot here, too. The second part of Bad Boy Trouble was simply horrendous.

The annoying thing is that artist Steven Butler does a better job on the artwork in the second part, as the male members of the gang (as well as the high school faculty) look pretty good, especially Jughead (who Butler gives a very apropos Maynard G. Krebs look), so the story is off to a better start right off the bat.

Sadly, Melanie J. Morgan's script is just terrible.

It is quite distressing to see Archie's most prominent comic event in some time to not even receive a mediocre script.

The basic framework of the story is nothing we haven't seen in many works before - the "bad boy" acts like, well, a bad boy, and aggravates most of the school but keeps Veronica enraptured, blind to his faults. While that's not the most original idea, it is an example of how cliches become cliches because they work, and a good story could easily be told with that framework. That Morgan fails to do so was actually pretty baffling.

For Nick (the "bad boy")'s disturbance in class - Morgan has him cluck loudly like a chicken. Gah??!

He then steals Dilton's dessert in front of everyone. That's not a "bad boy," that's just an outright bully, and it makes Veronica look not like a lovestruck teen for not seeing it, but like a moron.

Morgan doesn't seem willing to try even the slightest bit of nuance to Nick's portrayal, choosing instead to go way overboard with everything he does, thereby nullifying any power the basic plot may provide.

In fact, the real juicy plot point (that Veronica has said she is done with Archie in favor of Nick, so Betty has to decide whether to say anything, as saying nothing means she has Archie to herself) was COMPLETELY dropped in this issue - instead just giving us "Nick acts like an over-the-top jerk, Veronica acts like an over-the-top moron and Betty just frets the whole issue."

Just an awful comic.

So there ya go, some good, some weird and some ugly - an interesting month of June for Archie Comics!

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