A very strong week for good comics, so I’m focusing on some that I haven’t talked about as much, but are quality titles that could use more readers. That’s what I’m here for, to lead people to discover things they’ll like!
Also, I managed to step wrong onto a curb yesterday and severely lacerate my foot, so I’m writing this on painkillers and lack of sleep. (Four stitches! Helpful advice: When seriously injuring yourself in a freak accident, try to do it across the street from an emergency room.)
Life with Archie #30
Most comics fall into a few genres: superheroes, fantasy, science fiction, horror, an occasional mystery, romance, or western. This comic is instead contemporary drama. It’s a genre widely explored in movies and literature, but almost untouched in comics.
This is really two entirely different alternate realities. There’s one where Archie and Veronica are married, and another where he marries Betty. But there are plenty of differences and similarities between the two storylines, as there’s no point in telling the same story twice. And in this issue, several long term storylines work on resolution.
In the Archie/Veronica story, we’ve been seeing in the background that industrialist Fred Mirth, rival of Veronica’s father Hiram Lodge’s Lodge Industries, has been up to something. He owns the record company Archie works for, Jughead and Pop’s Choklit Shoppe franchise, and other businesses that are important to the lives of our characters. His plan is coming to a head, and even though it’s unclear exactly what his gambit is, it’s a tense corporate thriller. I can’t wait until next issue when the repercussions from the bomb dropped start being felt and the characters can start turning the tables.
The Archie/Betty story focuses on a much more personal storyline. We’ve known for a while that Jughead’s little sister, Jellybean, has been dating the guy behind a string of burglaries in Riverdale. And readers have known it was inevitable that he was going to take advantage of her part-time status at Jughead’s Choklit Shoppe to rob the Riverdale landmark. Ultimately, she makes a very difficult decision. It’s these kind of emotional, personal stories that this title excels at.
When I added this title, it was mostly in support of the prominence of Kevin Keller, the Archie Universe’s gay character. Little did I expect this was going to be a premiere title in my pull list and a delight time after time.
Last month we finished up a major storyline; this month we have a one-shot between major stories, involving a young girl named Junebug. I’m not familiar with any source material this fable might be referring to, but I’d like to be.
Junebug is precocious, to say the least. She’s smart, confident, and really just delightful. The entire issue works entirely on the strength of her writing. It reminds me a lot of a Miyazaki heroine, like in Spirited Away.
Junebug ends up exploring a castle, mostly being underfoot of all the adults there, until she ends up finding the actual things going bump in the dark. I won’t hold anyone in suspense, not with that cover image – there’s giant rats, and she gets captured.
This was a very nice issue. It could easily have been a filler issue to break between stories, but I hope we see little Junebug again.
This issue is told from the point of view of Killer Croc, a classic unappreciated Batman villain. In recent issues he’s been transformed into a horrible, mighty monster, and back again.
Croc’s story has always been one of trying to find a place to fit in, but not able to overcome his bestial nature. The superlative 90s Batman: The Animated Series has a remarkable episode about Croc trying to live with circus folk, that I highly recommend. (Well, I recommend seeking out and watching that whole series.)
Now, he once again thinks maybe he’s found some place to belong. But his new circle of monsters want him to prove himself by killing Batwoman. This story would be fairly mundane tale if told traditionally, but the perspective change elevates it. The reader can sympathize with why Croc is trying to kill the Batwoman, and ultimately, why he doesn’t. I even sort of wish him some measure of happiness along the way. But there’s no happy ending for him, most likely.
This title isn’t consistent, with always great art but stories that are sometimes confusing and muddled, and then other times mythic and amazing. But when it hits, it really hits, and this is one of those times.