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Archie & Friends #117

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2008
By: Penny Kenny

Alex Simmons
Rex Lindsey, Jim Amash (i), Stephanie Vozzo (c)
Archie Comics
“Archie World Tour, Double A” (part 1)

London, Madrid, Nairobi, Rome, and Zurich. Five cities in ten days. And all Archie can say is “We have to learn a bunch of old facts, about a bunch of old cities. And keep a journal too! When are we going to have any fun?”

But thanks to writer Alex Simmons this class trip is about to get a whole lot more interesting. Before they’ve even checked into the hotel, a lovely, green trench-coated stranger crashes into them. Soon they’re being followed everywhere by more trench-coated characters. And what’s behind Moose’s strange behavior?

Part one of “Archie’s World Tour” sets up a large mystery, solves a small one, and delivers some of the best character moments in recent Archie history. Alex Simmons understands these characters and establishes their personalities through realistic dialog, acknowledging their histories in a way that allows a first time reader to quickly comprehend their place in the Archie-verse. Veronica’s first lines – “Been there, done that! But I’ll be sure to show you all the hot spots.” – reveals her as the somewhat condescending rich girl she is. Archie and Reggie’s badinage captures their rivals-friends dynamic. But the real surprise is Moose, who for the first time in a long time, is shown to be more than just the jock with jealousy issues. It would be interesting to see Simmons take on a Moose, Midge, and Reggie mini-series and explore that particular relationship.

More than just hitting the characterization spot on, Simmons also gets how kids act on these kinds of trips. We get a sense of their excitement and their crabbiness when they’re overtired and won’t admit it. Spats flare up for no reason and die just as quickly. These realistic touches give a solid grounding to the adventure/mystery plot.

Very few details about the mystery are revealed this issue. We know the kids are being followed because someone thinks they have something. What that something is and who these people are, we don’t know. The last panel sets up the next issue and readers will surely want to check back in to find out what it’s all about.

Rex Lindsey, ably inked by Jim Amash, provides one of the better chase scenes I’ve seen recently. Lindsey offers a variety of perspectives during the chase that suggest movement, while still providing a smooth flow between panels. The off-kilter, widely framed panels leap from the page in an almost 3-D effect. And check out Amash’s ominous clouds. They provide an almost noir ambience for the scene.

The background details, which move so much of the plot along, are just beautiful. The opening splash page, showing a busy London street, sets the scene vividly, letting readers know immediately that they’re not in Riverdale anymore. As the kids tour the city, Lindsey manages the difficult task of showing famous landmarks, keeping the main characters in the forefront of each scene, and showing what the villains are doing in the background – all without confusing the reader. This would be impossible without Amash’s fine inks. He keeps the details from becoming just a blur of design.

This team also handles facial expressions very well; aside from the cover, where Betty and Veronica look like they’ve been over-Botoxed. Lindsey and Amash manage some subtle changes of expression to indicate the mood. Moose goes from confused to hang dog to depressed in one especially nice sequence, while Veronica’s shocked surprise during a tiff with Betty is beautifully rendered.

Stephanie Vozzo’s colors are one of the highlights of the story. She uses a wide variety of colors and shades, dressing the main characters in bold, bright colors that are eye-catching and pleasing, while reserving the softer shades for backgrounds. This serves two purposes, as it allows the characters to stand out from the background, and gives London the appropriate sense of age.

Readers looking for a bit of Alex Rider/James Bond adventure should definitely check this issue out.



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