No trick! Tales from Riverdale Digest #30 is a great treat for your favorite ghost or goblin. First the rich yellow, purple, and orange colors of the cover capture your attention and then Fernando Ruiz’s lovingly rendered monsters hold it. Seven beasties leap out of the full moon towards you. In the foreground, vampire costumed Archie and Jughead cower. It’s a scene that could have come across as crowded or cluttered, but doesn’t. Ruiz provides just enough detail to make each creature distinctive, but doesn’t overwhelm the viewer with the elements. Check out his swamp creature – lined, but not overly so. His spider vampire and werewolf are also rather nice. This is a cover that’s fun-scary and beautiful to look at.
Inside, the fun continues with the George Gladir scripted “For Monsters Only.” When Jughead and Archie miss the boat -- literally -- for Veronica’s Halloween bash, they end up invited to another, more unusual, party. But will they ever be able to leave it? Gladir’s script is smart and fun. I particularly enjoyed the conversation between the wolf girl and the female mummy. “You’d be depressed too, dear, if you were a female mummy and had to wear the same old rags for over three thousand years!” That and Jughead’s, “A door in the ceiling?” which I’m convinced is a tip of the hat to the classic Elastic Man line “An ear in the fireplace!” Besides the laughs, there’s also drama, as there’s some question as to whether the boys will escape their hosts.
As on the cover, Ruiz’s art is gorgeous. I’m not sure, but I think he’s redesigned some of the monsters from the old “Carneys” Sabrina series. The Master sure looks familiar. And I know some ‘monsters’ from other companies have wandered in for the fun. Look for the Mole Man, Vincent from Beauty and the Beast, the Scarecrow, Goliath from Gargoyles, and the Green Goblin among others. Also check out the absolutely beautiful classical Medusa.
Inker Rich Koslowski’s use of clean thin and medium lines brings the details out without obscuring the totality. Also, his barren trees are perfectly creepy. Barry Grossman’s colors are bright and vivid, but can drop to atmospherically dark in an instant. His heavy use of black in the attic panels is especially nice.
The lighter “The Promise,” also by Gladir, but with pencils by Pat Kennedy and Bob Smith’s inks, has Mr. Weatherbee trying to improve already above average reading scores. His idea leaves the kids rebelling. I got a kick out of this one, just because Gladir captured the educational administrator mindset so well. Superintendent Hassle truly lives up to his name. Younger readers, on the other hand, will enjoy the dynamic duo of Weatherbee and Archie.
Scooby-Doo fans will love the Archie’s Weird Mysteries reprint “A Familiar Old Haunt.” The gang visits a paranormal investigation camp and naturally encounters spooky goings on. The uncredited writer did a fantastic job with the characterization, keeping the Archie gang true to themselves while exploiting the obvious similarities to the Scooby Gang. This makes the plot fun and clever on two different levels. The art is very dynamic. The characters don’t just carry on conversations; they lean forward, hug themselves, shrug their shoulders, etc. The angles on the action vary from panel to panel, keeping the momentum going. This is just a superior reprint.
“Check It Out” is a clever Reggie story that looks like it might have been penciled by Kennedy. Riverdale’s favorite Lothario has been assigned library duty after spending too much time in class talking to cute girls. No dummy he, Reggie comes up with a way to communicate with visiting cuties without talking. Of course, no plan is perfect and Reggie’s is no exception. The art here is attractive and the punchline is amusing.
The digest finished with Bill Golliher’s “The Pies Have It.” When Ms. Beazly loses a prized family ring in one of the lunch pies – well you can imagine what she does to get it back. Bob Bolling’s pencils, beautifully inked by Jim Amash, give the characters a rubbery, animated look that’s used to good effect in this story. And doesn’t his Mr. Weatherbee look a lot like Batman: The Animated Series’ Penguin? There’s also a shot of Veronica that manages to be glamorous and funny at the same time.
If you need an extra treat for a favorite trick or treater, or if you just want to treat yourself, pick up a copy of this digest. It’s sugar free and loads of fun.
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