Publisher: Archie Comics
This is one of the better Betty and Veronica Digests to come along. There’s a variety of material, with none of the plots being repeated, and a heart-felt letter from an Archie fan that proves the comics’ elite wrong when they dismiss this publisher’s offerings.
Mike Pellowski’s “Photo Finish” has Betty in training for the “Friendship Assistance Marathon” which raises funds for local social services. No surprise that Betty would be involved with this good cause. Of course, when Ron finds out the winner’s photo will be on the front page of the paper, she decides to enter too. At first the girls train together, but a chance comment by Archie sends Ron into super-competitive mode. The question then becomes will the spirit of competition win out over friendship?
The ending hinges on Veronica’s well-documented conflicted feelings about Betty, and it works very well. Without being overly heavy-handed, Pellowski gives readers a lesson about friendship and helping others. In a couple of places the dialog goes a bit clunky as he tries unnecessarily to show that Betty isn’t just a goody-goody, but that’s a minor quibble.
In general, penciller Pat Kennedy and inker Al Nickerson do a great job, though there’s one panel where Ron’s proportions are way off, and a couple where the faces don’t look quite right. On the other hand, the panels depicting the race are terrific. Kennedy and Nickerson go all out in showing the various racers and how they handle – or don’t handle – the marathon. I particularly enjoyed the shaggy man who looked a bit like he’d wandered in from a Tezuka manga. These background details add humor and color to the main plotline.
My favorite story, though, is “Cracked Crab.” It’s just a five-page reprint showing Betty and Ron out catching crabs, but the wordplay is fun, the art is clean, and Ron is used for physical comedy. It’s always fun to see the dignified heiress treated with a bit of irreverence.
“Mothers and Daughters Day” is a charmer about the girls treating their mothers to lunch and a day of shopping in appreciation for all that they do for them. It’s a sweet idea on the girls’ part, but the generation gap does make its presence felt. Whoever wrote the story has a real handle on the obliviousness of teens when they’re focused on a mission, and the artist perfectly captures the looks of horror on the mothers’ faces when confronted with their daughters’ clothing and luncheon suggestions.
Josie and the Pussycats are in Muldaria filming a movie in “Music for the Masses.” And thanks to Alexandra’s conniving, they land in jail in this continuation of a story begun in B&V Digest #176. A quick recap by Valerie brings everyone up to speed, and it’s on with the story. These are the 90s Pussycats, not the manga revamp, but the story and look aren’t particularly dated. The composition and layout of the panels are very well done. I especially like the effects used in Alexandra’s headshots to show her emotions.
Then it’s back to Riverdale for “Doiley Dancing” which has Betty and Ron trying to teach the resident genius how to dance. Betty’s solution is quite clever and along the way there’s some physical comedy and cute dialogue. But what makes it especially enjoyable is a short scene near the beginning when Ron jumps on Dilton for dating two girls at once. Dilton retorts that he knows a guy who’s been dating two girls for years. Ron’s response? “Why that’s ludicrous! They shouldn’t put up with it!” You have to admit, Ron’s cluelessness is a big part of her charm. It lets readers feel superior to the rich and beautiful Miss Lodge. That particular piece of dialogue also shows Archie Publications isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself. This is the kind of thing many manga series do regularly – which just goes to show Archie Comics were manga before it was cool.
The final story by Pellowski, Galvan, and Smith is a pop culture tale featuring one of everyone’s favorite Pop-Tarts, Paris Hilton – oh, excuse me, Venice Bilton. The high society celebrity has dropped by to see old pal Ron and make a few cutting remarks about Ron’s friends. As only Ron is allowed to put down her friends, she takes revenge by spilling a few of Venice’s secrets. Pellowski is much kinder to Venice than the paparazzi is to Paris, so readers get a cute story, not a smarmy one. The punchline depends a bit too much on pop culture knowledge for my taste, but it works – for now.
If you’re looking for some light, fun reading, give this issue a try. It’s definitely worth a look.
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