Friday, May 28, 2010

FCBD: What About The Books? Part Eight

ARCHIE SUMMER SPLASH FCBD EDITION #1  (Archie)                                                     scripts and pencils by Dan Parent

        For decades the Archie books  (ARCHIE, BETTY & VERONICA, JUGHEAD, etc.) have been a great source of light reading and fun entertainment. These whimsical stories featuring universal characters in teen/high school adventures could also usually  be counted on to be non-threatening and free of controversial material.  At least that’s the way this reviewer evaluates them.  Although I’m not a regular reader - - anytime I’ve checked into these titles they haven’t seemed to change (sometimes with a minimal alteration to reflect current clothing/hair styles or references to current events).   Mind you, I’m not counting the recent event with Archie getting married - - which puts a whole new spin on some future stories to come.

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         With that in mind, I was a little bit shocked as well as pleased after reading ARCHIE SUMMER SPLASH.  In my opinion, writer/artist Dan Parent takes some liberties with the characters and puts a little stamp of his own on them.

          “Whose BEACH Is It, Anyway?”  tackles the social separation/class differences between suburban teens with wealthy parents who utilize a private beach versus the city-dwelling middle class teens who share the public beaches with everyone else.  It’s Pembrooke versus Riverdale as a snooty but attractive redhead gets her dander up when a family member invites some of the  “townies” to share their private beach.  The tables get turned when an oil spill (whoa, Dan Parent must have a crystal ball!) evacuates the private beach.  So the snobbish group led by the redhead just migrates to the public beach, much to the dismay of the Archie group, especially Veronica.

      The other conflict involves The  Archies musical group practicing for a summer battle of the bands and finding some less talented but marketing-savvy and annoying competition.  What surprised me was the way that Archie, Reggie and Jughead came up with a solution to the problem, which basically involved deception.  Wow, I never thought I’d see Archie conduct himself this way.   It’s not what anyone would consider “bad behavior”.  I guess I just viewed Archie as having higher principles.

      The art is very friendly and doesn’t stray far from the Archie “look” or “style” that you see in these books.    Well, with the recent marriage proposal and impending wedding I’ll have to reconsider my opinion of the Archie books.  As if to confirm that the Archie books aren’t entirely predictable there’s an ad inside the FCBD edition for the 4th trade paperback edition of  the “Archie New Look Series” which features all the familiar characters drawn in a more mature and less cartoonish style.  This cover of this volume features Veronica in “My Father’s Betrayal” (oh oh). 

COVER APPEAL = 3 POINTS.  Features Archie front and center surrounded by his friends engaged in fun summer activities.  Sure to draw the intended audience (pre-teens for sure, and probably some high school students as well).  STORY = 3 POINTS.  I actually liked this a lot, and felt that it had more depth than the standard Archie fare.  ART =  2 POINTS.  Parent seems to make the most of what he can, and does a nice job of using the facial expressions and gestures to help indicate the mood of the characters.  YOUTH APPEAL = 3 POINTS.  Archie represents a good chance at bringing in young students as readers.  NEW READER APPEAL = 3 POINTS. You don’t have to know anything about Archie’s background to enjoy this and can figure out most of it.  No detailed explanations required, which makes it refreshing. PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS = 3 POINTS  Archie does a good job of promoting their books, even including an ad for the SONIC title.  And they include their web address, which I feel is essential for all comics to include  - - - as well as including the logo for the Comic Shop Locater web and phone service.  EXTRA BONUS: = 1.5 POINTS.  I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to explore the world of Archie. The FCBD title is a great jumping on point.  And I would certainly suggest this to middle school students, etc.  But I don’t feel that many in my age group would appreciate it, unless their share my interest in the comics industry getting more new and younger readers.

TOTAL POINTS GRADING = 18.5 . . . HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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SPECIAL NOTE:  Writer/artist DAN PARENT will be a guest at CAPTAIN BLUE HEN COMICS (Newark, Delaware) on SATURDAY, JUNE 26th at 10 a.m.  I hope to be able to meet him.  Will you be going?  You can find more information about him at www.danparent.com.

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