Ten stories. Ten gems. This Tales from Riverdale Digest is batting a thousand.
Opening the issue is “Hair Apparent”, a story that focuses on Mr. Weatherbee and his relationship with his twin brother Tony. Sweet and charming rather than laugh out loud funny, writer-penciler Fernando Ruiz’s story explores the differences between the brothers, shows the respect they have for one another, draws some interesting parallels between life in Riverdale then and now, and gives readers a peek at some of Riverdale’s older residents before they were old. Phew! Not bad for a twelve page story.
Keeping the tale from becoming too sweet are the little throw away scenes Ruiz and inker Jon D’Agostino add to the narrative. Moose’s reaction to a mouse and the antics of Wendy Weatherbee’s pets are two that leap to mind immediately. And for – ahem – older readers or those younger ones who know their pop culture trivia, there’s the young Flutesnoot’s uncanny resemble to Screech from the old Saved By the Bell TV show and the young Pop’s “Who Got JR?” t-shirt, which possibly harkens back to the Dallas cliff-hanger of the '80s. While they don’t add anything in particular to the main storyline, other than a bit of the era’s flavor, they’re cute bits in themselves.
There’s some very nice character design in this story. The teenage Waldo is especially well done. I have known young men who look just like him. Also most panels provide plenty of background detail and action. This gives the story a grounded in reality feel that some stories lack.
“The Betty Cooper Story (Almost!)” tells the “story of lovable, sweet Betty Cooper! Hair like spun gold, and eyes as blue as the Summer sky! A kind, caring, considerate heart, bursting with concern for her fellow—” It’s at this point that Veronica intervenes and saves the reader from expiring from an overdose of saccharine. Gleefully breaking the fourth wall and paying tribute to a classic Bugs Bunny cartoon along the way, this story is a fun reminder of who Betty is and where she comes from.
The uncredited artist keeps what is basically a talking heads story visually interesting with the over the top hearts and flowers effects and the use of exaggerated poses and expressions. For having no real action, it has a lot of movement to it. Oh, and his “Li’l Archie and Li’l Betty” are absolutely adorable too.
Thought it’s not quite as good as the previous Archie’s Weird Mysteries reprints, “A Mighty Weird Crusade” still has its points. This particular story offers superhero action as the Mighty Crusaders leap from the pages of the comic book Archie buys at Mr. Weatherbee’s garage sale and onto the streets of Riverdale. As they battle the evil Brain Emperor, Moose is caught in the crossfire and becomes a force for EVIL.
This story is a nice tip of the hat to Archie Comics’ superhero past, when they published the adventures of the Shield, Comet, Web, Jaguar, and others. Readers who know their comic book history will smile at Archie’s “Pep Comics with The Shield! I love the Shield!” knowing that Archie took over the Shield’s spot in Pep. While those moments are nice, and the art work has an attractive, almost Justice League Animated Adventures style, there is a weakness in the characterization. The snarkiness evident in Jughead’s manner in the last issue has increased ten-fold here officially taking him out of the “snarky but fun” category and putting him in the “obnoxious” one. Aside from that though, the story is a fun, superhero lite adventure.
“Robots Forever” is a clever story that has some odd undertones. Archie is doing a piece for the school paper on the robot companions Dilton has created for Riverdale’s students. So far, so normal. But then we get the panel with Dilton kissing his female companion robot. While not exactly Barbucci and Canepa’s Sky Doll, it is rather odd. But then the story returns to normalcy as the robot offers Dilton some advice for getting the real girl of his dreams. A slightly unusual and intriguing idea, clever writing, and a lean, almost Joe Staton-like art style make this a story worth checking out.
The final story, “Dumb Waiters!” has Nancy picking up a few things on her way to the beach. Too bad there’s only one check out line open and five people ahead of her. Pellowski, Shultz, and D’Agostino take a commonplace, everyday, annoying situation and make it fun and amusing. That’s no small feat. The art is standard and understated for the most part, but Nancy’s eyes express what she’s feeling as much as her thought balloons do. And while the punchline isn’t necessarily telegraphed, it is the perfect ending.
Those seeking an afternoon’s enjoyment are urged to seek this issue of Tales of Riverdale Digest out.
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