Archie & Friends #157 is a special “Anniversary Classic” issue that reprints three stories that originally appeared in 1958’s Life with Archie #51.
Two of the stories feature “The Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.” As good-guy spies, Archie and the gang keep Riverdale safe from Dr. Nose, Dr. Demon, and Li’l Devill, evil agents of C.R.U.S.H. Frank Doyle’s scripts are smart, clever and funny. “The Nose Knows!” opens with a shocking and dramatic scene.
There’s also plenty of sheer goofy imagination on display. At one point there is a robot cow and the plot of “Enter Dr. Demon” revolves around an invisible bomb! While Doyle has fun with these ideas, he plays them straight. They are written as plot points and not just jokes.
The art by Bob White, Mario Acquaviva, and Sal Contrera is timeless, despite being from the late 50s. The characters’ mature appearance is very appealing. Jughead looks especially good.
The layouts of each panel are simple, allowing the artists to concentrate on the main action and give it dynamic expression. In one panel Betty and Veronica speed off in the car with the invisible bomb. The car is slightly titled in contrast to the buildings in the background. Smoke wells up from behind and below it, creating the impression of movement. In another panel, the gang tip-toes toward a factory. Each character has an individualized style. In another, they run from an angry Pop Tate.
The issue’s third story is a one-pager written and illustrated by Bill Krese and features boy magician Sammy the Whammy. It’s a cute gag featuring a Dennis the Menace lookalike.
I’m glad Archie Comics is reprinting so much of its classic material in an affordable format. While this particular issue might not appeal to everyone, fans of clever wordplay, slapstick and spy comedies are encouraged to pick it up.
For the past thirteen years, Penny Kenny has been an elementary library paraprofessional in a rural school district. For the seven years prior to that, she headed a reading-math program designed to help first grade students with learning difficulties. Her book reviews regularly appeared in Starlog from 1993 to the magazine’s unfortunate demise in 2009 and she has published several e-novellas under a pen name. She has been a reviewer with Comics Bulletin since 2007.