In this frightfully entertaining collection of spooky stories, Archie and the gang assume the personalities of the costumes they're wearing, are pranked, accidentally invade a monsters' Halloween party, and learn the secret of the “House of Riverdale.” It's the last story that I'm going to concentrate on here--not because the others aren't worth reading. They definitely are. Fernando Ruiz, Dan Parent, and George Gladir turn in some stellar work.
Each story is fun, funny, and spooky. While they probably won't appeal to the hardcore horror fan, they're perfect for the person who wants a light chill. I enjoyed "Clothes Make the Monster," "An Axe to Grind," "Halloween Riverdale Style," and "For Monsters Only" when they first appeared, and I am delighted Archie Comics has collected these fairly recent stories in this attractive and durable volume. However, as far as I know, this is the first time Batton Lash's "House of Riverdale" story has been collected since it first appeared in 1995.
Originally the "House of Riverdale" ran through World of Archie #17, Archie #442, Betty & Veronica #95, and Jughead #76. It was an unusual crossover event as Archie Comics didn't do very many continued stories at that time. Written by Batton Lash, the art chores were handled by penciler Stan Goldberg and inker Henry Scarpelli.
The titular House of Riverdale is an ancient, deserted house that is scheduled to be torn down. Inspired by some research and a dream, Archie gets the gang to help him protest the demolition--but is the gang saving a historical landmark or allowing an old evil to reawaken in Riverdale?
Lash's script is a delight, turning the usual paradigm of youth being pro progress and adults being conservative on its head. Here it's Archie and his friends fighting to preserve Riverdale's heritage, while Mr. Lodge leads the charge to demolish the building and rid the landscape of blight. Both points are valid. While Lash proves Archie wrong in this instance, he isn't saying preserving the past is wrong all the time.
The characterizations are strong. Archie is enthusiastic, rushing ahead on impulse, but with the best of intentions. Betty also has good intentions, but she's more thoughtful and ready to entertain opposing viewpoints. Veronica is all about herself, just as Reggie is all about himself. Jughead is in it for the food, of course, but when the chips are down he comes through for his friends.
Officer Blunt, a Dickensian hard-nosed policeman who automatically believes the worst of teen-agers, is shown to be capable of learning from his mistakes. Sabrina the teenage witch, playing a small but key role, is torn between helping her mortal friends and following the rules of the supernatural realm. I believe this story marked the return of Sabrina to the mainstream Archie-verse. Just before this story was originally published, her comic had been focusing on her adventures at Gravestone Heights High with a cast that included a walking eyeball, an invisible girl, and the like.
While there is a strong supernatural element to the story, it's also grounded firmly in reality. The scene at the council meeting with the councilman complimenting Archie for his interest in civic affairs out of one side of his mouth while brushing his idea aside with the other is played out somewhere in the world every day. The opening scene with Reggie throwing rocks at the old house is familiar to most readers, as is Jughead and Jellybean's horror movie marathon. These common activities make the later appearance of the supernatural elements more believable.
There are also humorous moments--such as Betty's way of breaking Veronica out of a trance, the teens' first encounter with Blunt, Archie's second encounter with Blunt; Reggie's "To Do" list of evil, and Jughead's encounter with the supernatural. I have to admit I love the visual pun in that last story. As Jughead rants, "Betty and Veronica are like zombies and I'm ravin' like a lunatic!" a raven looks on.
Stan Goldberg and Henry Scarpelli give Reggie and Archie a slouchier, heavier look than other artists do. They look a lot like the football players in my high school, which makes sense given that the pair are always portrayed as athletes. Jughead slouches in a different way. Thinner, he comes across as more laid back in comparison to the rest of the cast. The girls are attractive in a cute, wholesome way, and they have expressive faces.
Though there are quite often several people in a panel, it's not difficult to follow the action. Goldberg frames it in such a way that you can always see who's doing what.
While Archie's Haunted House: Archie & Friends All-Stars is a mouthful to say, it's a book well-worth picking up. It's a collection that could become a Halloween classic.
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