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Author Topic: Some reviews.  (Read 26756 times)

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Re: Some reviews.
« Reply #90 on: October 24, 2017, 06:36:36 PM »

I meant to do this a month ago when I got the new deluxe hardcover edition of THE BEST OF ARCHIE COMICS: BOOK TWO, so here it finally is.

I'm going to keep this short and just list what's missing and what's been added, but I should probably also mention that there are a number of instances where the original text commentaries prefacing the stories have been replaced by newer comments by different people (for example, all of the comments on stories attributed to Fernando Ruiz have been replaced by comments by different people). The numbers in parentheses are the page numbers that the stories appear on in the original 2012 TP edition (MISSING) or the new deluxe hardcover edition (ADDED), which also includes pages on which any comments prefacing the stories appear.

MISSING stories from the original 2012 TP edition:
(146-156) LITTLE CAPTAIN PUREHEART in "Attack of the Molemen"
(234-238) JOSIE in "Hi-Style Hi Jinks"
(239-255) LITTLE ARCHIE in "Little Archie and the Secret City"
(265-269) JOSIE in "The Image"
(277-281) THE ARCHIES in "Rock 'n' Rassle"
(282-289) ARCHIE 3000 in "Wieners Over Riverdale!"
(391-392) JINX in "Fitting In" and "It's Complicated" (both 1-pagers)

ADDED stories in the new 2017 deluxe HC edition:
(361-382) REGGIE AND ME #1 (2016) no title
(383-404) YOUR PAL ARCHIE #1 (2017) "The Road Worrier" and "A Night at the Opera"
(405-416) RIVERDALE #1 (2017 one-shot) ARCHIE in "Sweetwater"

I wonder if Fernando asked to be taken out?

DeCarlo Rules

Re: Some reviews.
« Reply #91 on: October 25, 2017, 04:21:27 PM »
I wonder if Fernando asked to be taken out?

Hope I didn't give the impression that ONLY Fernando's comments were selectively removed. There were a number of different substitutions of new comments, and I think maybe only 2 or 3 (at most) of those quotes were from Fernando. It's just that I didn't bother making a detailed list, and his was the first I noted as being replaced, so no other specific names came to mind -- but somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-25% of the original comments have changed. Come to think of it, that might be true (seems probable, in fact) of the first HC volume as well, although I haven't checked it.

DeCarlo Rules

Re: Some reviews.
« Reply #92 on: October 25, 2017, 04:28:27 PM »
Oh, and of course the seven stories that were removed from the new HC edition were ALSO prefaced by comments that have now been removed and NOT replaced, so the actual percentage of "substitution" commentaries might be less than 20%.

DeCarlo Rules

Re: Some reviews.
« Reply #93 on: March 01, 2018, 02:56:10 PM »

Contents listing: Year (by cover date) of publication, source Title & issue # of first appearance in print, Story title, and Number of pages.

AgB&V = Archie's Girls BETTY and VERONICA (1950-1987) or "Volume 1", and B&V(v2) = BETTY and VERONICA (1987-2015) or "Volume 2". The rest should be self-explanatory.

   1944      ARCHIE #6      [Nominate A Drum Majorette]      4   pages   
   1944      ARCHIE #9      ["And now, girls…"]      5   pages   
   1944      ARCHIE #10      ["Why look, new neighbors…"]      5   pages   
   1945      ARCHIE #14      [NOTICE]      6   pages   
   1946      ARCHIE #19      [Aviation Training]      6   pages   
   1946      ARCHIE #20      RAY!      7   pages   
   1950      AgB&V #1      What's Cookin' ?      6   pages   
   1951      AgB&V #4      Fish For Dinner      5   pages   
   1954      AgB&V #12      Ski Sick      4   pages   
   1955      AgB&V #20      Late Date      3   pages   
   1956      AgB&V #26      Click Chick      5   pages   
   1956      AgB&V #26      Sock 'n Roll      5   pages   
   1957      AgB&V #29      Popular Mechanics      6   pages   
   1959      AgB&V #44      Sheep Skinned      6   pages   
   1965      AgB&V #111      Dress Dilemma      6   pages   
   1965      AgB&V #112      Midas Mess      6   pages   
   1965      AgB&V #112      Prize Package      5   pages   
   1965      AgB&V #113      The Escort      6   pages   
   1965      AgB&V #122      TILT      6   pages   
   1969      AgB&V #142      New Girl in Town      6   pages   
   1970      AgB&V #177      Crabby Couple      6   pages   
   1972      AgB&V #193      From Stem to Stern      6   pages   
   1973      AgB&V #206      Success Story      5   pages   
   1974      AgB&V #220      Temptation      5   pages   
   1974      AgB&V #222      Breath Taking      6   pages   
   1976      AgB&V #234      The Advertising Game      5   pages   
   1979      AgB&V #287      Snap, Crackle and Pop      6   pages   
   1980      AgB&V #289      Voices of Change      6   pages   
   1981      AgB&V #303      Sculpture Schemer      5   pages   
   1984      AgB&V #333      Chiller      6   pages   
   1984      AgB&V #333      Is There an Archie in the House?      5   pages   
   1985      AgB&V #335      The Untouchable      5   pages   
   1986      BETTY'S DIARY #1      The Art Lesson      6   pages   
   1987      B&V(v2) #1      Right For the Part      5   pages   
   1990      B&V(v2) #26      Inner Voices      6   pages   
   1991      B&V(v2) #39      As Easy as 12-26-83      6   pages   
   1993      B&V(v2) #67      Paint the Marsh Mellow      5   pages   
   1994      BETTY #15      Super Sleuther      11   pages   
   1997      B&V(v2) #112      Archie's Choice      20   pages   
   1999      B&V(v2) #136      Better Fashionably Late Than Never      5   pages   
   2000      B&V(v2) #148      Hog Wild      6   pages   
   2003      B&V(v2) #185      Un-Bully-Vable      11   pages   
   2003      B&V(v2) #189      Rabid Rivals      6   pages   
   2005      B&V(v2) #211      Sooo Superficial      6   pages   
   2009      B&VDD #196      The Past Will Catch Up With You      13   pages   
   2014      B&V(v2) #269      [variant cover artwork by Jeff Shultz]      1   page   
   2014      B&V(v2) #269      Just Another Day!      20   pages   
   2014      B&V(v2) #270      The Minds of Betty & Veronica!      6   pages   
   2015      ARCHIE (v2) #2      [main cover artwork by Fiona Staples]      1   page   
   2015      ARCHIE (v2) #3      untitled story      22   pages   
   2016      B&V(v3) #2      [cover artwork by Adam Hughes]      1   page   
   2017      B&V(v3) #3      The Battle of Riverdale      20   pages   
   2017      RIVERDALE V1 TP      [cover photo]      1   page   
   2017      RIVERDALE #1      Bring It On      10   pages   
   2017      B&V VIXENS #1      [main cover artwork by Eva Cabrera]      1   page   
   2017      B&V VIXENS #1      untitled story      19   pages   

Most of the stories in this collection are those that I've previously read elsewhere... and no, it doesn't help that the last 75 pages of stories are all less than 3 years old. There was less than 20% of the total number of these stories that I hadn't read previously (or just couldn't remember for sure). Ironically most of those were stories from this century, as opposed to the last half of the 20th Century, including a couple from 2014 that I missed just before I started seriously reading Archie Comics, and was never able to find as back issues (B&V(v2) #269 & 270), and from BETTY AND VERONICA DOUBLE DIGEST #196, Dan Parent's second "Agents B&V" story, "The Past Will Catch Up With You" (the title of which refers to the then-surprise return of a couple of characters unseen [in 2009] since the old Bob Bolling LITTLE ARCHIE series). I believe that's the first time that story has been reprinted (the first Agents B&V story was reprinted in Book One of this trade paperback series). Most of the stories I hadn't read were also among the longer ones in this book.

Also in here is what I believe is the first story in what became an ongoing feature, Bob Bolling's "Betty Cooper, Super Sleuther" from the early run of BETTY. Some might not care for those stories, but to me they're always a hoot. They are just so ultimately Bob Bolling, and there's no mistaking when he writes a story like those. The only time you might confuse a Bolling-written story with someone else's is if it's a true 5 or 6 page short where he doesn't have the room to develop any complex plot. But even then, there's usually something that sticks out about the story as atypical. He always seems to yearn to write a longer story, and add some elements of adventure, mystery, or mysterious paranormal happenings. The BCSS stories were more like the old Nancy Drew books (a series of young reader mystery novels in hardback, if you don't know what those are) where Betty has a keen interest in criminology and deciphering clues as an amateur detective.

I wince whenever I see ACP reprinting the 1940s stories, because they're so painfully BAD. And that's making allowances for the average level of craft across the industry in the 1940s, which was admittedly less sophisticated as a whole. Comic books were still very much "feeling their way" in the 1940s. But ACP's Archie and friends stories from that period are just not notable as being very good on any level. ACP's superhero stories from the same time period compare more favorably (on average) with other publishers' superhero stories from Marvel (Timely Comics) or DC (National Comics) or many other publishers at the time. The Betty and Veronica stories reprinted here are just bad, and I'll tell you why. The artwork is below par for this type of feature, and even the writing shows too little imagination. Of the six stories from the 1940s reprinted here, three of them use the same gag device -- Betty and/or Veronica are frightened by a mouse. THREE out of five!! But worse than that and most damning of all, is that the two girls are in no way differentiated in the stories in terms of having contrasting personalities. Except for the fact that Veronica is brunette and rich, and Betty is blonde and middle-class, they could be the same girl. It's hard to understand how the Archie feature survived as a comic book in the 1940s, until I stop to recall that it was adapted into a radio comedy series in 1943 (which was popular enough to continue for a decade), and that Bob Montana launched an Archie newspaper strip in 1946. The radio show is probably responsible for keeping the first ARCHIE self-titled series alive at a time when it was nothing to brag about, and when Montana's newspaper strip came along a few years later, it finally gave the comic book writers and artists something to aim for in terms of improvement, because unlike the comic BOOKS, Montana's newspaper strip WAS good. And by about 1949 or 1950, the Archie comic books had raised their game, which is why they finally could spin off JUGHEAD, REGGIE, and BETTY AND VERONICA into their own comic books. So if they're going to insist on reprinting stories representing the 1940s, couldn't they at least pick them from the last couple of years in the decade, when they became tolerably readable?

Even in the 1950s stories, you can see a remarkable improvement from 1950 to 1958. And even the stories from 1950 reprinted here are a quantum leap in quality over those of the mid-1940s. As it happens, I think there are MAYBE 4 stories from the 1940s to the 1970s that I hadn't read before. But at least all the ones reprinted from the 1950s to the 1970s are GOOD stories, even if I've read most of them before. There was a slightly higher percentage from the 1980s and 1990s which I hadn't read, but not much. Unsurprisingly, since those stories DO get reprinted a lot more often -- but then they have more of them to reprint, since those stories on average have been better preserved, once it became apparent to the people at ACP that there was a lot of money to be made in reprint digests. The only way to account for the fact that FIVE out of the six stories reprinted here from the 1960s are from the single year 1965, and that three of those are from contiguous issues (#111-113) is that the preservation of those stories for reprinting purposes has been somewhat haphazard and random. But the book has 400 pages and sells for a cover price of ten bucks, so they can't be spending lots of money on scanning and touching up old stories... it's just not in the budget, so you get maybe ONE from each decade (1950s through 1980s) that hasn't been reprinted before.

The stories chosen from the 2000s, and from 2010 through 2014, especially, are all really fine stories (despite the poor sales of classic Archie comics in general), proving that they continued to put out some of the best stories ever right up to when they pulled the plug.

AND to make up for that, they reprint 75 pages of stories that are LESS than three years old in the 2010s section. Logistically, there's no justification for it. They don't reprint stories that recent in the ongoing digest titles (and by extension, the 1000 Page and Giant comics digests) do they? Of course not. The only reason they're reprinting the New Riverdale comics from 2015 through 2017 is in the hope that a few people picking up this trade collection still aren't aware that they exist, and they hope to sell a few more floppy comics and trade paperbacks. Those pages are ADVERTISING, pure and simple. Everyone else picking up a collection like this that has been following Archie Comics in anything more than the most casual of ways is already aware that those comics exist, and has already either read them, or made a conscious choice not to read them.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2018, 02:01:12 AM by DeCarlo Rules »

DeCarlo Rules

Re: Some reviews.
« Reply #94 on: March 02, 2018, 03:38:22 AM »
Betty & Veronica: VIXENS #1-4
Written by Jaime Rotante
Art by Eva Cabrera

Issue #4 of this title came out this week, which more or less concludes the first story arc of this series (apart from one conspicuously dangling plot thread), so I sat down and took the opportunity to re-read the first three issues along with the new one.

There are a few things that strike me immediately as unsatisfying about this series as is. To begin with Eva Cabrera's artwork, she does a really nice job on the covers for the most part, along with some of the splash pages (which look to have been later "add-ons" in the sense that they were drawn somewhat later and are completely unneccessary to the actual story, as if the script had actually run a page shorter than the number of story pages allotted for the issue). So I know that given the time to do a good job (at least on a single drawing) Eva is capable of better work than what's on display in most of these panels and pages. It appears to me that she's just not up to speed to deliver an entire comic book worth of art (she appears to be her own inker) in the time allotted in the best quality she might be capable of if given more time. Her greatest strength is in her actual storytelling ability, the layout of the panels and placement of the figures on the page, moving those characters in space and including all the information necessary for reading the story unambiguously. Her weaknesses (at the speed she's required to work to make deadlines) are:

1)  Sparse and undetailed backgrounds (she often doesn't bother to rule straight lines that should be ruled, use much perspective, or add much detail or any shading/textures in her work, which makes it look a little bland and 2-dimensional overall. Background props are sort of "mailed-in" with little time spent making them look convincing.
2)  Faces are inconsistently drawn. In any given issue you can find some examples that came out well (in consideration of her own style), and others where little things are just off, like the shape of the head or the distance between a character's eyes. Some noses are drawn well, and others not. Sometimes she gets a good facial expression in there, and sometimes not. She needs to work on that, and codify her own particular style so that she can adapt it to the requirements of any given angle or character action/reaction, drawing the same type of head angle or facial expression consistently from one instance to the next, and always keeping the proportions well-balanced.
3)  Many of Eva's weaknessess in these areas could have been smoothed over by having assigned her a good, experienced professional inker -- someone like Rich Koslowski. Eva's own inking is her weakest area overall, because many artists don't bother with fine-tuning the details of backgrounds, texturing, and faces until the inking stage. That's when they get more of a three-dimensional quality to the artwork, and make it look less flat, and improve some of the rough edges of their pencil art. I can only assume that Eva really doesn't have the time to do all that, both pencilling AND inking, with the amount of work it requires before the deadline, to bring her work up to truly professional levels, like she does with her cover art. Most likely, being fairly new as an artist, she really isn't being paid a lot to do BOTH jobs of pencilling and inking, and I can sympathize a little bit with that. Obviously, ACP did not budget the book high enough to account for also paying a pro inker like Koslowski to finish the pages. Her inking is flat, with no variance in line-weight or real polish or confidence to it, which is what an inker does to turn rough pencil art into something slick looking, giving everything some roundness, depth, and consistency. She does draw and position her figures pretty well, but still needs work on details like hands.

Now, harsh as all that might sound, I do think Eva has a future in the industry, but she'll have to work on both her consistency and speed. With time and constant practice (and with a little assistance by a veteran ink-slinger until she can get up to speed) that should improve, and as I mentioned, she already has the ability to lay out a story and tell it visually pretty well. The overall effect here is of a young person of reasonably artistic ability who still has a long way yet to go -- the artwork still has that 'kitchen-table'/DIY roughness to it. Some might say that's part of its charm, that rough-hewn quality, but really it's comics at the fanzine/doujinshi level.

Now let's get to the story. There are a couple of problems here, both in story terms and and in characterization. Let's take characterization first. Jaime Rotante is kind of all over the place here, with a large cast of characters, but the main ones don't seem to ring true (even allowing for a complete transplant of genre) to the ACP characters we're familiar with. Betty is probably the worst example. Betty Cooper in this story has some kind of self-esteem issues and a lot of pent-up anger, and often lets it dictate her actions in place of thinking. The fact that she gets away with it in most instances can only be chalked up to dumb luck (or because the writer SAID so). This Betty threatens to kick someone's ass, and starts fights when she should know better and just walk away. In other words, she's not really any version of Betty Cooper who appeared in any of the Archie comic books up until 2015. She seems to fancy herself as Riverdale's protector in some way, but really she's the one instigating retaliation from the Southside Serpents gang. Similarly, both Toni Topaz and Evelyn Evernever are seemingly always spoiling for a fight. Since both of these characters have less about them established, it's easier to bend whatever prior characterization might have existed in those few stories with them. What Veronica's interest in all this girl-gang business is, is never really made clear. She seems to enjoy the idea of it for pure kicks. Some things about the story are just left hanging and we never really find out what happened. In the first issue, Betty rides passenger on Archie's "fixed it up myself" motorcycle until they encounter mechanical troubles, on the way to meeting up with Veronica and Reggie at "Dead Man's Curve", and they need to pull into Spotty's, a biker bar which is the Southside Serpents' hangout. Archie gets nervous when he sees all the bikers in the bar, runs out, and hops on his bike in an attempt to "get the hell out of there", accidentally knocking over a row of the Serpents' parked motorcycles, which irks the Serpents' leader, Fangs Fogerty, and he vows to get even. Later on, it's never revealed what the heck happened to Veronica and Reggie that same night, or exactly what the Serpents did to try to get revenge, but it's implied (NOT shown) that they went on some kind of "roaring rampage of revenge". If Jaime Rotante wants to make us feel that whatever Betty and Veronica think they're doing is to "protect Riverdale" (or themselves), then it's got to be SHOWN, not just "alluded to". As far as can be seen in this story, apart from Archie's clumsiness in accidentally knocking over the Serpents' bikes, everything from then on is a result of things that B&V do to instigate conflict, and a result of their anger and spoiling to prove something to themselves in challenging the Serpents. It's hard to generate sympathy for their cause when they're not even trying to avoid a conflict, but actively seeking it out. My takeaway from this is that Betty has some unresolved self-image issues and Veronica is just looking to be "in on the action", to experience some lowdown "kicks" that the pampered rich hardly ever need contend with.

So, overall, there's definitely something lacking here in terms of clear motivations and something other than random characterizations. Jaime's approach to scripting a comic story is still at that homemade Kitchen Table/fanzine-quality level. She needs to better think out the motivations and actions of her characters, because the whole storyline seems like a domino chain of random actions. Of course the Serpents don't get our sympathy either, because (for some reason that isn't entirely clear) they choose to ransack Ambrose's Garage (giving him a concussion when they assault him) and steal Bubbles' McBounce's motorcycle. Once again, the Serpents gang's attack isn't actually SHOWN, only the aftermath of it (that's not good drama). It isn't ever explained how the Serpents draw some kind of connection between them and Archie and B&V, the target of their vindictiveness. Bubbles is so upset by the attack that while she's at first mindful to keep the concussed Ambrose from falling asleep, a few panels later she gets mad at him and tells him to "Go back to sleep" (which would imply that she's so mad that she doesn't really care if he winds up with brain damage or dead).

Then too, there is a lot of flashforwarding and flashbacking in the story (each issue usually starts in the present, then flashes back to some events occurring earlier), and it's done very awkwardly, without much in the way of transitional captioning, so that the actual connection of chronological events is sort of blurry. There's a big rumble between the Vixens (who after all, are still inexperienced high school girls new to this whole "gang" thing) and the vicious and very-experienced Southside Serpents, in which the Vixens all handily deliver the beatdown to the Serpents in a couple of pages in the last issue, winning rather easily with not much serious effort or incurring any injuries. HOW? Just because. Because they're the "good gals" and they need to win in the end, regardless of any sort of reflection of concern for "realism" or anything like that. Oh yeah, because Evelyn and Toni are always getting in fights, anyway, and Veronica knows like 3 or 4 different martial arts (which she just happened to mention in passing) the names of which J.R. just plucked off the internet somewhere. Rah, rah! Girl Power!!

The universe of VIXENS seems to take place in a world where in the year 2018, they have computers, smartphones, and social media, but sociologically and culturally, nothing has changed about the world one bit since the 1950s. Adults are still stern and sober authoritarians worried about the threat of juvenile delinquency, and a woman is still expected to "know her place" in society. On the other hand, inflation never happened either, so a ticket to the big dance can be bought for only $2 (in our world, I'm thinking it would be more like $20 or more, but I admit to not having bought a ticket to a local social event in a while).

Betty and Veronica as co-leaders of an all-girl biker gang is a potentially interesting concept, but the execution of the idea is less than graceful. At the end of issue #3, we are teased with the introduction of what would seem to turn out to be a modernized version of Little Archie's Mad Doctor Doom, and although we see him meeting clandestinely with Fangs Fogerty to plot some further unguessed mischief, there's isn't much of a hint of how he fits into this world ("mad scientist" seems unlikely), or how exactly he fits into the underworld gang structure.

From what's been in the first four issues, I couldn't grade this comic any higher than a C-, and that feels somewhat generous.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2018, 05:00:28 AM by DeCarlo Rules »

Vegan Jughead

Re: Some reviews.
« Reply #95 on: March 02, 2018, 07:47:35 AM »
You're a stronger man than I am DCR.  I liked reading your review way more than I can stand the idea of B&V as bikers. 

DeCarlo Rules

Re: Some reviews.
« Reply #96 on: March 02, 2018, 03:08:41 PM »
You're a stronger man than I am DCR.  I liked reading your review way more than I can stand the idea of B&V as bikers.

You know, in reference to my earlier review, if they're searching for a new spin for a modern reboot, they could do lot worse than go back to Bob Bolling's idea of Betty Super Sleuther. Now, that title wouldn't exactly cut the mustard with today's comic audience, because it would just be laughed at. But you could maybe call it something like BETTY'S MYSTERIES, and you could even recycle some of Bolling's old plots (expanded to four or five issues so that they could be collected in a trade paperback). That would work drawn in a style somewhere in-between classic and New Riverdale Archie, and you could have various other Riverdalians taking secondary or minor roles in any given story arc. Something LIKE Nancy Drew, but with a contempory spin on it. Just to do something different, with an Archie book that's kind of an adventure, with Betty as the most logical choice to be the hero. As long as you kept the mysteries actually interesting (i.e. something you're not going to guess the explanation to in the first or second issue of the story arc), why wouldn't something like that work?


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