With Christmas getting closer, it's time to think about what to put under the tree for your favorite young readers.
The Chapel Chronicles Volume One: This is a collection of several episodes from the Chapel Chronicles web comic, a funny, smart four panel strip that is something like a cross between Pat Brady's Rose is Rose and Jimmy Gownley's Amelia Rules! Its heroine, Chapel Smith, is an independent, articulate, intelligent eleven-year-old who plays games to win, suffers through chores, loves Lady Gaga, wants a pet, and is generally fun to hang around with. With her overabundance of red hair and long black dress, Chapel is a striking and memorable figure. While most of the strips feature Chapel against a blank background, fourteen-year-old creator Emma T. Capps is also capable of rendering detailed scenes. In the "Triple Word Score" strip, the Scrabble board and its words are clearly legible. Capps also does a fantastic job of expressing emotion in her art. She's especially good at depicting the maniacal look of a teen on a mission. The curve of the eyebrows, the short thick dash signifying closed eyes, and the smaller dab of a mouth personify stubbornness. Tween and early teen readers can rejoice at having a character so like themselves, created by someone their own age.
Archie Christmas Classics (978-1-879794-78-8, $14.95): This collection of winter and Christmas themed stories is the perfect early Christmas present for anyone who enjoys humorous stories and good looking art. The editors have gathered a selection that show Archie and the gang in all their clumsy, clueless, snarky, sweet, selfish, and giving glory. We see Reggie's pranks backfire; Archie spend Christmas with the one he really loves; and Veronica try to out decorate Betty. There's even a charming prose story to close out the volume, as well as pin-ups and coloring pages. A cornucopia of great Archie writers and artists are represented, including: Frank Doyle, George Gladir, Harry Lucey, Dan DeCarlo, Stan Goldberg, Bob Bolling, and Joe Edwards among others. While those interested in comics history will be disappointed by the lack of credits attached to the individual stories and informational essays, fans of fun stories will find this volume everything they could wish for.
Sonic the Hedgehog Archives Volume16 (978-1-879794-79-5, $7.95): Continuing the original "World Tour" storyline from issues #59-62 of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book, this collection features the first appearance of the Iron King and Queen and the Sand Blast Freedom Fighters. Dashing and enigmatic spy Geoffrey St. John also appears in the "On His Majesty's Secret Service" storyline. Extras include brief biographies of key characters and coloring pages by artists such as Jim Valentino, Patrick "Spaz" Spaziante, Harvey Mercadoocasio, and Steven Butler. These attractive Archives volumes are an economical and convenient way for new readers to catch up on the rich history of the Sonic-verse or for longtime fans to re-live favorite stories.
Sonic Legacy, Volume One (978-1-879794-88-7, $14.95): Taking a page from the Big Two comic book publishers, Archie Comics offers the original Sonic the Hedgehog mini-series and first sixteen issues of the ongoing series in a phonebook sized, black and white edition similar to Marvel's Essential and DC's Showcase Presents volumes. Unlike those bare bones collections, however, Sonic Legacy includes a foreword by long time Sonic artist Patrick "Spaz" Spaziante, as well as production art and sample pages. While this material is available in other formats, this collection could very well attract a new audience. The size alone will appeal to 8-10 year olds who love a "fat" comic book. Trust me on that. Longtime readers will also enjoy seeing how the black and white reproduction makes the manic energy of the art really pop off the page.
Archie: Obama & Palin in Riverdale (978-1-879794-87-0, $12.95): This oversized graphic novel collects Alex Simmons and Dan Parent's two issue "Campaign Pains" storyline from Archie #616-617, as well as Dan Parent's "Ms. Lodge goes to Washington" from Veronica #199. Both are fun stories that give young readers a very basic idea of the democratic system and teach the value of honesty and co-operation without being heavy-handed. Extras include fact pages about President Obama and Governor Palin and sketch pages.