Where can readers find a teenage spy, a teenage witch, and a pint-sized mischief maker? Between the covers of Betty #195, of course. This collection of timeless reprints from the 1960s offers readers both giggles and good-looking art.
Al Hatrley's "Mission Implausible" opens the issue. While it owes a lot to the old spy TV show in its set-up and the era's slang is kept intact, younger readers will still be able to enjoy it. The basic premise is a familiar one: Betty wants to get Archie out of Veronica's clutches. But Hartley throws in plenty of word play and physical comedy to make things lively. Betty disguised as a meter reader, spouting lines like "Hello! I'm the meter reader! I've come to read the meter! Where's your meter? Can't read a meter unless you've got a meter to read! Do you read me?" is a wonderfully crazy idea that works well. "Mission Implausible" also ends on a distinctly meta-textual note. There are no dull or slow spots in this six-pager, though it does seem like one panel is missing. There's a very abrupt transition between pages five and six. However, that's a minor problem. Hartley's art, inked by Jon D'Agostino, is great looking, with a strong sense of movement.
Speaking of great looking art, Dan DeCarlo illustrates two of the issue's other stories, as well as a pin-up page. "Pass Me By" is a clever story that features comedy of the "They missed each other by this much" type. Again, there's a very simple set-up: Mrs. Andrews invites Betty in so she can ambush an unsuspecting Archie. But the unknown author and DeCarlo take full advantage of the premise. While it's a humorous story, the characters and their emotions are real. The banter between Mr. and Mrs. Andrews as "Pass Me By" opens is fun and establishes them as a typical married couple. DeCarlo's clean, attractive style keeps the reader's attention focused on the main action. A good portion of the story could be told without dialog as the characters' body language and expressions suggest what's happening.
In "An Uncle's Monkey," DeCarlo gets to depict the antics of Sabrina the teenage Witch's clutzy boyfriend Harvey.
The arrival of Sabrina's Uncle Ambrose and his monkey only add to the confusion. Again, DeCarlo does a fantastic job with body language and expression, creating an animated cartoon on paper. Dick Malmgren's script is smart, giving readers a sense of who these characters are and what their relationship to one another is with a minimum of words.
Joe Edwards' Li'l Jinx ties her long-suffering dad in knots in "Hold the Line." While the technology's changed since this story first appeared, the sentiment behind it is timeless. Young readers will understand Jinx's point of view, while older readers will have some sympathy for her father.
This collection of classic tales is a fun way to introduce the Archieverse characters to new readers. Each of the stories stands on its own and establishes who the characters are while being genuinely amusing. The timeless nature of the material makes it something both younger and older readers can enjoy together.
For the past 13 years, Penny Kenny has been an elementary library paraprofessional in a rural school district. For the seven years prior to that, she headed a reading-math program designed to help first grade students with learning difficulties. Her book reviews regularly appeared in Starlog from 1993 to the magazine's unfortunate demise in 2009 and she has published several e-novellas under a pen name. She has been a reviewer with Comics Bulletin since 2007.