Artists Fernando Ruiz and Pat and Tim Kennedy join the Life with Archie team as the trial of Reggie Mantle to come to an end in “Archie Marries Veronica” and tragedy hits Riverdale High in “Archie Marries Betty.”
Under Ruiz and the Kennedys’ pencils, the cast takes on a more youthful look. Archie and the gang look more like college students than college graduates. They also skew a bit more toward the cartoon-ier look of the company’s main line books. None of this is a problem. It’s just a different take on the characters’ than Norm Breyfogle has.
The Kennedys show they know how to stage an action scene in a four-page sequence in which Moose discovers the identity of the school saboteur and takes him on. The characters lean or bend and have weight to them. Using angles that are only a little above or below the line of sight, they create a sense of movement. There’s also good use made of panel borders, as often the character’s body will push past the boundary to come toward the reader, giving a visceral feel to the experience.
Inkers Al Milgrom and Bob Smith keep the art consistent, without taking away from the individual artists’ styles. The characters have a very naturalistic look to them thanks to these men’s work. Janice Chiang’s lettering confirms that her CBG Fan Award was well deserved. As always, Glenn Whitmore’s colors are beautiful. Especially notable is the use of color in the sound effects. By using different colors for the different sounds or changing the color when the same effect is used twice in a row, Whitmore creates a “soundtrack” for the story. A red THUDD sounds different than an orange THUDD. The reader can sense something has changed in the panel without necessarily being able to articulate why.
While writer Paul Kupperberg brings Reggie’s trial to an end, it didn’t have quite the bang I expected it to. Yes, there was a surprise courtroom revelation a la Matlock and certain decisions Veronica and Mr. Lodge made in respect to Reggie’s defense might have ramifications farther down the road, but the status quo doesn’t really change much. What did surprise me about the trail was how Fred Mirth was shoehorned into it. Mirth, along with Mr. Lodge and Dilton Doiley, has become the pivot point for both universes, as he begins to take a more prominent role over in “Archie Marries Betty” this issue.
If I was somewhat disappointed with “Archie Marries Veronica,” I definitely wasn’t with the “Betty” chapter. Events took a surprising, even shocking twist and then Kupperberg compounded it with a cliffhanger ending. The two subplots of Archie’s students hazing him and Moose’s work on the school being sabotaged came together with explosive results that made perfect sense and yet, wasn’t ever telegraphed. Events allowed supporting characters to show their intelligence and courage and the main characters to show they are family, whether related by blood or not.
It strikes me that Kupperberg and company are taking all the best elements of the daytime soap operas and grafting them on to the Archie-verse. You have the popular, main couples facing events that keep them separated. You have the generational aspect, with each age group getting its own storyline. You have tragedies that rock the community. You even have doppelgangers and parallel universes. These are the kinds of storylines that shot shows like Days of Our Lives, General Hospital and Guiding Light to the top of the charts in the ’80s. With daytime soaps disappearing right and left, now might be the time to introduce your favorite soap opera fan to Life with Archie.
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.