Monday, December 16, 2013

Archie: The Married Life, Book 1

Yesterday, we saw the marriage part, but here we see how everything plays out. This book is a huge chunk of comics, and in its pages we see what happens as these characters get older. The storyline is split in two, alternating between the path where Archie married Veronica and the one where he married Betty. There are some common features between the two: Moose learns to manage his anger and decides to run for mayor.
Reggie and Veronica circle around each other, finding it difficult to break old patterns.
Mr. Lodge becomes more than a parental nuisance and reaches evil supervillain status as he tries to buy up all of Riverdale so he can turn it into a haven of strip malls, chain stores, national franchises, and vast parking lots.
Jughead decides he wants to buy the Choklit Shoppe and run it as his own, if he can afford it.
A standout Little Archie character in the stories by Bob Bolling, Little Ambrose returns to the proceedings, all grown up and running a restaurant/club.
Also, super-smart geek Dilton is curiously missing, but seems to be in the story as a mysterious time traveler who is trying to affect history.

That last element especially seems to color the narrative, as these stories gesture toward a continuity where all the Archie stories and characters of the past (including some very kooky ones) actually happened in part of a multiverse. This is a vast change from past Archie stories that, save for a few examples I can think of such as some of Samm Schwartz's Jughead stories or the 1987 Jughead series, were largely ahistorical comedies or parodies of popular culture. Stand-alone stories are what made it so easy for the editors to package and repackage so much material into various collections and digests, but here we see a series of interconnected comic books more in the narrative vein of typical superhero comics.

This extended narrative was about 100% better than the gimmicky marriage volume I reviewed yesterday. Sure, there are some still cheesy parts, such as the teens' former teachers all pairing up and getting married after all these years, but there are also genuine surprises and emotional moments in this book. The tensions of married life, shifting dynamics between characters who are growing up, and well-plotted narrative make for some very compelling reading.

The credit for a snappy story goes to Michael Uslan and Paul Kupperberg, two veterans of the comics industry. Uslan is a big-time movie producer and former university instructor who taught the first accredited course on comic books. Kupperberg is a writer and former DC Comics editor with a long list of credits. But perhaps the most appealing part of the book for me is the incredible artwork from Norm Breyfogle. Breyfogle is well known for a long run on Batman comics in the 1990s, and his distinction style conveys much action, emotion, and energy into the narratives. I love the dynamism of his layouts, and his style is dramatic and evocative here. He is a master draftsman whose artwork adds so much to the proceedings. There have been some excellent, admirable artists to draw this cast of characters over the years, but I do not think I have ever seen as lively an Archie comic ever before.

The book is available here for purchase, and there are also two consequent volumes already out.

Well, I have looked in at Archie as he is growing up. Tomorrow, I am turning my attention to a favorite minor character in the Archie universe who was given the YA literature treatment. Come on back and catch up with Li'l Jinx!

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