Current Reviews


Archie & Friends #120

Posted: Monday, June 30, 2008
By: Penny Kenny

Alex Simmons
Rex Lindsey, Amash/Nickerson (i), Glenn Whitmore (c)
Archie Comics
“Our Girl in Rome or Something Swiss is Amiss”

After escaping smugglers in Nairobi, Archie and Jughead catch up with the gang in Rome just in time to see Veronica abducted! Before you can say, “It's il uomo nel verde trenchcoat!” Archie and Chuck are on her trail.

“Our Gal in Rome” brings the “World Tour” storyline to a satisfying conclusion. From the title that will remind readers of a certain age of '60s spy programs and Rocky & Bullwinkle to the concluding panel, Alex Simmons and Rex Lindsey pack the story with plenty for readers of all ages to enjoy.

Simmons thoughtfully opens the story with a recap/set-up that runs for three pages. Now I’ve read the previous three issues, and I have to say this didn’t feel like filler or wasted space. Simmons handles the recap well, fitting it into the flow of the story. In a trade collection it might seem redundant, but for a newsstand comic it’s a reader friendly touch that’s appreciated.

Pairing Chuck and Archie was an inspired idea. Besides giving Simmons a chance to pay tribute to the Bill Cosby / Robert Culp series I Spy – check out the last panel on page five for the visual clue – readers also get to see Chuck in a new light. Rather than just being the “guy who draws comics,” he gets to show off his language skills, quick wit, courage, and inventiveness. Simmons doesn’t reboot the character or make “everything you know about Chuck is a LIE,” he just deepens what was already there. Hopefully these traits will carry over into the non-adventure Chuck stories.

Readers also get to see Emma Steele of Interpol in action. I like to think she’s a tribute to Emma Peel of TV’s classic The Avengers. The impulsive agent has a certain charm and “take no prisoners” attitude that’s fun to see. A return appearance wouldn’t be amiss.

Simmons script has some good plot twists, is smart without being smart-alecky, allows the characters to be intelligent, and ultimately all hangs together. The McGuffin that’s caused all the trouble is actually worth all the trouble. Simmons doesn’t let readers down with a weak ending.

Rex Lindsey and the rest of the Astonishing Archie Art Society have turned in another stellar job. The visual storytelling is first-rate. With one glance readers can tell what’s going on. While further examination reveals details that add to the enjoyment, Lindsey, Amash, and Nickerson never muddy up the main action with unnecessary detail. Check out the book’s final panel for an example of this. The focus is squarely on Archie and Chuck as the heroes. That’s where the eye goes first, as it should. But if you take a second look and let your eyes wander over the scene, you’ll see a whole other drama involving Reggie, Moose, and Midge playing out in the corner. It’s like a bonus scene for alert readers.

Like a good noir movie, several scenes depend on the figure lurking in the shadows to heighten the suspense or provide the knockout blow. Lindsey does a beautiful job setting up these scenes; and extra credit goes to colorist Glenn Whitmore for the shading he does. The panel showing Chuck and Archie capturing one of the gang, while unbeknownst to them another gang member is creeping up on them, and unbeknownst to him another figure lurks in the shadows is just a great scene. The panel is bright where it needs to be and dark where it has to be. It has drama, suspense, and even humor. Dialog, art, and color work together flawlessly.

The straight-out action scenes are also well-done. The montage scene showing the gang and Emma Steele taking on the bad guys is fluid, clear, and dynamic. Each character is also acting in character. Moose and Emma use the direct approach; while Betty is more “subtle.”

I have only two complaints with this issue. One is that there was so much plot, we got see virtually nothing of Rome or Switzerland. Sure, Chuck pointed out a couple of sights as he and Archie raced after Veronica, but I wanted more. My second problem is with the cover. It’s a cute gag; but a gag works against what’s going on inside the book. The other covers in the mini played it straight. This one should have too.

If you haven’t picked up the previous “World Tour” issues, that’s your bad. Don’t make the same mistake and miss this one.

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