Tales From Riverdale Digest #26 is a perfect issue. Of the ten original and reprinted stories between its covers, there’s not a clunker in the bunch.
George Gladir’s “A Warming Effect,” features Reggie’s response to global warning. In short, he doesn’t believe in it – until a frightening vision shows him the error of his ways.
Gladir’s script is smart. He blends issues that will resonate with children – Santa delayed on his rounds because of melting polar ice caps – with ones that strike a chord with driving teens and parents – rising gas prices. Reggie is the ideal character to use to get the point across. He’s even more self-absorbed than Veronica, but he’s also the character with the most intelligence – Dilton aside. He might be self-serving, which this story touches on, but he’s a smart self-serving. Reggie will change his ways given incentive. The rest of the cast doesn’t share that characteristic. Had the story featured any of them, it would have just been an “issue” story that didn’t ring quite true. With Reggie, you can see his change of heart working into other stories down the line.
Fernando Ruiz and Jon D’agostino’s art ensures the story will be accessible to young readers, without overpowering Gladir’s message. Little ones might not understand global warming, but dikes where they shouldn’t be, a bare-chested, shorts-wearing Santa Claus, and grown-ups hopping around on pogo sticks because it’s a no-driving day are all fun visuals that get the point across.
“The Write-Off” has Betty and Veronica breaking the fourth wall and taking over for their ailing writer/artist. This is a fun little piece that plays with the conventions of what the classic Betty and Veronica story is. While the girls might complain their fighting over Archie is trite and hackneyed, they don’t have much success coming up with a new direction either. Their interaction with their writer-illustrator is smart and gives some insight into just how difficult it can be to come up with fresh material for a franchise like Archie comics month after month.
In “Driven to Distraction,” Mr. Lodge and the gang go on a cross-country trip to promote his new Limo-camper. At least they’re supposed to be driving cross-country; it’s just their personal obsessions keep getting in the way. This story does directly contradict one of my all-time favorite Jughead stories, but I won’t quibble with it. Not using that particular gag would have been the crime in this story.
This is a reprint of a fairly recent story and I’m wondering just who the artist and inker are. The look is reminiscent of Ruiz. The art is highly detailed without being busy, the characters are slightly leaner looking and there’s an active fluidity to their lines that gives them a sense of motion within the panels. Also Mr. Lodge is looking very dapper here.
“Shriek,” an Archie’s Weird Mysteries reprint, takes on the Scream and The Ring franchises and comes out on top. In this episode Archie and the gang (who have come to believe strange things are happening in Riverdale) have to lock away an evil spirit before it collects everyone’s soul. Very similar in tone to early Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes, the story succeeds in capturing that vibe without being a poor knock-off. There’re the pop culture references, the breezy attitude to the unknown, and the mythic underpinnings.
Characterwise, Jughead’s personality has a sharper edge than usual in this story. It’s very similar to how he was portrayed in the early days of his strip – ready to match Reggie tit for tat. But the true star of the story is Dr. Beaumont, Riverdale’s resident expert on the occult. Smugly superior, he delivers the necessary exposition with style.
The characters have a very attractive “simplified for animation” look to them and the forced perspectives and unusual (at least for an Archie Comic) camera angles add to the atmosphere. As does the dark, rich palette.
Finishing out the volume are the exceptionally well-done “Return of the Bulk!” – a Hulk riff that’s entertaining on its own terms; “A Singular Idea” – an amusing Josie and the Pussycats tale; and “The Big Build-Up” – a new story by Boldman, Galvan, and Koslowski that has a photoshopped picture of Archie causing quite a stir with the girls of Riverdale High. Veronica’s final line would have made more sense coming from an adult, but other than that, it’s a fun story.
Tales From Riverdale Digest #26 is a package well-worth its $2.49 price, providing readers with plenty of bang for their buck.
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