If you can accept the rather odd premise of Reggie and Archie developing a sudden passion for ventriloquism, "Dueling Dummies" is a surprisingly entertaining story. George Gladir sets up the story as a typical Archie v. Reggie plot. Reg is using his dummy and ventriloquism skills to annoy Arch, so, of course, Archie decides to get his own dummy and learn ventriloquism himself. Just when you think the story is about to become a series of insults, Gladir introduces a twist: criminals after Mrs. Lodge's jewelry collection. Add an unexpected hero and a clever last word from Reggie, and you have an enjoyable fifteen pager.
Gladir sprinkles tips for budding ventriloquists throughout the opening pages while moving the story along at a brisk pace. Certain elements come out of left field – a "Doggie Bash"? – and yet they're integrated into the story so well, it doesn't matter.
On the artistic side of the equation penciler Fernando Ruiz and inker Jon D'agostino provide the characters with a nice clean look. The variety of close-ups and long shots used throughout the piece provide movement and keep it from being a one note story. The circular, tilted, and oddly shaped panels used during the burglary scene have a real sense of urgent motion, setting them apart from the quieter panels showing the guests' activities, while the standard panel showing the ventriloquists arriving with their dummies at the Lodge mansion is beautiful. Fitting in the various ages and genders and their individualized dummies might have been a pain, but it certainly looks nice. Colorist Carlos Antunes deserves a hand for his use of yellow, white, and black for the robbery scene. It's suitably dramatic and, again, makes that set of panels stand out. There's also a moonlit panel that's particularly nice with its shades of yellow, black, and purple.
While most of the remaining stories are worth looking at, five are exceptional.
"Party Hardy" is a reprint of a fairly recent Jughead tale. The moocher is repaying his debts with a party, but it doesn't exactly go as planned. While nothing much actually happens, the script is clever, the punchline is typical Jughead, and the art expresses the characters' emotions well enough that you could probably get the gist of the story without the words. A perfect vignette.
Mr. Weatherbee definitely deserves the title of "The Patient Patient" when Ms. Grundy and Ms. Haggly give him some TLC. This piece is pure slapstick. Soup flies. Pillows rip. Thermostats break and women rush to comfort. In a mere five pages, the uncredited artist gives readers a superb example of a cartoon on paper. Elongated panels alternate with regular sized ones to stretch out and compact the action. The POV moves in and out, keeping the story moving at a breakneck pace.
"Party Pooper" features Archie's parents in a story that will remind viewers of classic TV of The Honeymooners. Mr. Andrews is cast in the Jackie Gleason role as a man determined to have some peace and quiet. Archie gets to be Art Carney, who's equally determined to have a party. Mr. Andrews' actions are almost violently over the top, while Archie's are clever and innocently smug. The twist at the end is nicely done. Whoever wrote and illustrated this 60's era story had a perfect sense of comic timing.
"Snowball Effect" is a sweet vignette that begins with the gang complaining about snow and all the problems that come with it against a backdrop of children making snowmen and having snowball fights. But who can resist the lure of good packing snow? While the younger versions of the gang aren't that much younger looking, the rest of the art in this story is fantastic. The expressions on Archie and Reggie's faces as they wax nostalgic are beautiful examples of youthful maturity. The artist has captured a very human moment in these cartoon characters' lives.
When word gets out that Ms. Grundy is looking for interesting characters to put in her novel, the staff and students are ready to oblige in "One for the Books." Scripter Golliher has everyone going to extremes as a puzzled Ms. Grundy tries to figure out what's going on. As so often happens, it's up to Jughead to restore order. This is a goofy story that celebrates the wonderful weirdness of Riverdale while affirming the value of trying something new. Kennedy's art for the most part is very nice – with the exception of the ears he's stuck on Jughead. Dumbo would envy them.
"Cool Reception," "The Shopper," "E.R. Error," "Beep, Beep, Beep," and "Spellbound" all offer some nice looking art. Some panels seemingly owe their look to Pop Art, while others have a rubbery mobility that's very appealing. These are all newer reprints, but chances are readers might have missed one or two of them.
With the season of winter "blahs" firmly upon us, this double digest offers a fairly inexpensive way to lighten the mood.
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