Betty & Veronica Digest #190 features not only the introduction of new character Kumi, but also new writer Misako Rocks! Her “Coming to the U.S.A!” is a solid, basic introduction to 16 year old Kumi, its eleven pages showing both the teen’s excitement and fear at being in a new home and school. What was interesting to me was how Rocks! focused on the difference in sizes of things between the U.S. and Japan. It’s brought up when Kumi’s at the store, first sees her new house and bedroom, meets the gang, and visits the school cafeteria. It adds to the sense that Kumi really does come from another country.
There are two standout moments in the story. The first occurs when Betty, Archie, and Kumi stand around thinking, “Now what should I say?” It’s such a real moment. The first rush of greetings is over and the three teens are left wondering what to do next. Everyone has experienced this at one time or another and it connects readers to the characters. The second shows up a few panels later when Kumi latches on to Jughead because he remembers a few Japanese phrases from a movie he’s seen. This is another one of those moments everyone can relate to--clinging to that one person in the crowd who seems to “speak your language.”
Besides tapping into familiar experiences, these scenes work because of Jeff Shultz and Al Nickerson’s art. Under their combined hands Kumi is cute and appealing and manages to look slightly different from Veronica and Midge. In the “Now what should I say?” panel, the artists capture Kumi’s nervousness, Betty’s thoughtfulness, and Archie’s awkwardness beautifully. In the Jughead scene, Kumi’s relief and joy at finding another person who speaks Japanese is evident in the eager way she leans toward Jughead. One thing I wish Shultz had done more of was close-up shots. Most panels feature a distant POV, which separates the readers from the story and characters.
The story isn’t perfect. Betty refers to Kumi as an exchange student even though exchange students don’t typically move their entire family to their host country, and Kumi’s younger sister Ami is just scary looking. Seriously, her ponytails must be pulled too tight because she has a demented expression on her face in most panels. Also Dan Parent’s beautiful cover has Kumi looking far more mature and taller than she does in the story. That being said, however, “Coming to the U.S.A!” is an enjoyable introduction to a new character and writer.
The fun doesn’t stop there though. This issue provides readers with thirteen more comic stories and a prose piece for winter reading pleasure.
While “Forgive & Forget?” doesn’t explain why Veronica loves Archie, it does show her obsession with him. After a blow-up at the mall, in which she declares, “I never want to see your face again,” she’s suddenly seeing him everywhere. The fun in this piece comes mostly from the Archie faces that keep appearing in strange places and Veronica’s increasingly frazzled attempts to get away from them.
In “The Big Star” Betty’s presence at a basketball game could break the team’s winning streak, thanks to Adam and Archie’s rivalry. The fairly large cast is handled well--each gets a moment that encapsulates their character--and there are no slow spots in it. The panels are full without being crowded and Betty looks especially attractive. The uncredited artist also has a great panel showing Veronica stuffing a megaphone over Archie’s head.
“Snow Problem” features the young Sabrina from the animated TV series in a wicked twist on the “Frosty the Snowman” story. The script is clever and witty--I particularly liked the shout out to Mighty Mouse--with Hilda and Salem getting the majority of good one-liners.
“Role Model” is my favorite story just because I’m an Ethel fan. The gawky girl who is often treated as the butt of the joke is someone most girls can relate to at one time or another and anytime she gets sympathetic treatment I applaud. Here Betty asks her to help coach some “athletically challenged” girls. Ethel quickly figures out why, but goes along with it. While Betty comes off as almost patronizing in a couple of panels, it’s good to see Ethel portrayed in such a positive light and the message is one that needs to be repeated often.
“Give it a Rest-aurant” is a fun Josie and the Pussycats tale that has the girls investing in Josie’s cousin’s failing restaurant. The story is enjoyable and the character and page design are extremely attractive. It’s the best looking story in the book. I’m wondering if Barbara Slate is responsible for it, just because Josie’s cousin looks a lot like Slate’s “Angel Love” character.
Speaking of Slate, this issue includes a two page prose piece by her on making your own graphic novel. There’s no introduction to it. It just begins, ending just as abruptly. It almost feels like a part of a larger piece that was chopped down to fill a couple pages here. I’d welcome a longer, more developed essay by Slate on the subject given what I read here and I’m sure other readers would too.
Mike Pellowski, Tim Kennedy, and Jim Amash’s “Bedtime Story” finishes up the issue. When Mrs. Cooper chaperones the girls’ slumber party, she finds the more things change, the more they stay the same. I really like the look of the characters here. In the first panel, Kennedy and Amash’s Veronica has a really nice line to her, though I can’t figure out how she’s comfortable in that position. The panel featuring a young Mrs. Cooper and her friends is a stunner. It’s very reminiscent of Dan DeCarlo’s work in its innocent sexiness.
Summing it up, Betty & Veronica Digest #190 is a terrific collection and a great value for readers.
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