Jughead and Archie Spring Annual Digest #20

Archie and Vegas’s new trick has made a viral splash, and Archie’s collapsing under the pressure of his pup’s newfound popularity! Can Archie get everyone to quiet down, or will he and Vegas be doomed to never walk the streets of Riverdale in peace again? Find out in “Paws for Effect” the entertaining, new lead story to this special spring annual, featuring even more pages of fun!

You either like Archie or you don’t. I don’t like Archie. This Digest was my first real exposure to the franchise, and I have concluded that Archie’s reputation for lameness is well-earned.

The Blah begins with the art. It reminds me of the blander class of Sunday comics, along the lines of Marmaduke. Basic Archie-shapes drift about through sunny suburban whitebread backgrounds. The characters are lazily rendered; faces have a stamped-in quality, and the artists often struggle with profiles. There are brief glimmers of artistry: “Garden Fools” features visually-satisfying panels by Stan Goldberg and Henry Scarpelli; page 59 is reminiscent of Tom Eaton, of Pedro fame. But on the whole the visuals have a phoned-in feel. Granted, I wasn’t expecting P. Craig Russell here; I was, however, expecting some reverence for these 75-year-old characters. This comic has no heart.

The writing is distressingly dull, with the exception of the two Li’l Archie episodes. A Jughead: P.I. feature was lame to the point of offensiveness, despite halfway decent visuals. But perhaps the most jarring aspect of Archie’s writing are its anachronisms. There I was, meandering through another sunny day in Archie-land, when suddenly a child pulls out a SmartPhone and uploads a video to “EyeTube”. To my mounting bewilderment, half of Archonia turns out to be equipped with devices – it feels like those episodes of Star Trek where the crew go out in period costume armed with tricorders and phasers. This situation is made even more awkward by the comics’ insistence on using “Teen” as an adverb, recalling its origins as an “antidote” to all those “delinquent”-creating comics in the fifties. The only antidote Archie seems to provide here is for good storytelling and interesting characters.

Even for a cynic, Archie has its gooberish charms once in a blue moon. Jughead still manages to radiate laid-back cool, despite the writers’ best efforts. The Li’l Archie features at the end were the best part of the book, featuring elements of mischief and slapstick, and the kind of storytelling conspicuously lacking from the main event. And how about those New Archie ads! Fiona Staples of Saga is a contributing artist? Sign me up…!

It’s pretty bad when the ads for a reboot upstage the actual comic.

Taste Test result: 2 out of 5. In-Digest-ible. I wouldn’t Spring for it. Read it Annual die of boredom, if these puns don’t get you first at www.archiecomics.com.

Geek-o-Rama received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments and opinions are those of the individual reviewer.

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