‘Sup readers? Welcome to this week’s On The Shelf, and if you’re confused about why there’s no author credentials other than a very vague “various,” allow me to explain by diving into this week’s review (if you’re new to this column, check out any of the previous entries. Looking at that page makes me realize just how many trades/graphic novels have gotten shine this month). If you’re caught up in the world of comics, you no doubt picked up Archie Comics’ oversized oneshots, The Archies (written by Alex Segura and Matthew Rosenberg with art by Joe Eisma), Big Moose (three smaller stories scripted by Sean Ryan, Ryan Cady, and Gorf respectively. The art was done by Cory Smith, Thomas Pitilli, and Ryan Jampole), and Jughead: The Hunger (written by Frank Tieri with art by Michael Walsh). If you didn’t get the chance to pick up any of these titles, now’s your chance to get them in a bind-up! Archie comics has recently released a collected edition featuring all of this, called Archie & Other Stories, to sate the, as Veronica calls them, “unwashed masses.”
Since this is a bind-up of several different works with different creative teams (a first for On The Shelf. Something similar happened with A Castle In England, but that collection involved only one author and a handful of illustrators. The Archies And Other Stories is a true compilation), I thought I’d break down each story, assign it an individual rating, and then rate the collection as a whole at the very end. I’m using this calculator, so any inconsistencies with the averaging isn’t my fault. Okay. Ready?
The Archies by Alex Segura, Matthew Rosenberg, and Joe Eisma
About the formation of Archie’s band (I’ve always wondered why they’re called The Archies and now I know) with his best friends and Reggie. The art is utterly mesmerizing (that’s not surprising. Eisma has worked on the New Archie stuff before), the colours are bright and bold, and the dialogue was quick and natural. However, this is obviously spun out of the New Archie ‘verse, mostly handled by Mark Waid’s deft pen, and when held up as a sort of companion series, it’s not quite as engaging. As a oneshot, it stands on its own okay, but as the lead-in to an ongoing series (which it is), it slams into a wall of obstacles. Is the creative team (still the same for the ongoing) acknowledging everything that happens in Waid’s Archie ‘verse, or only certain plot points? If so, there are already some continuity issues that need to be addressed (or retconned, or swept under the rug, or something). For this reason, and the fact that I’m still interested in checking out the current ongoing, I couldn’t judge it too harshly, but I also can’t recommend it blindly.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Big Moose (“Moose Vs. The Vending Machine” by Sean Ryan and Cory Smith):
Moose Vs. The Vending Machine follows Marmaduke Mason in his quest for noms from the vending machine. He doesn’t have any money on him and Midge refuses to buy him a chocolate bar because she doesn’t want him spoiling his appetite for their romantic dinner later that night. This story would have fit in perfectly in an Archie digest, complete with the slapstick humour and the silly punchline. Not that a silly punchline is a bad thing, I definitely giggled. That said, because of the creative team, I thought this story would be my favourite of the whole collection. It fell a bit flat for me, perhaps because of how perfectly it could have slotted into a timeless digest rather than being the lead-in to a modern story.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Big Moose (“Have it All” by Ryan Cady and Thomas Pitilli):
I loved this one so much, and honestly, I thought this was such a great perspective on Moose. He’s never been the most compelling character, often played for laughs, but in this eloquently-crafted oneshot, we follow a week of Moose’s life, exploring the pressures he’s under. I think it was in Archie: The Married Life series that Moose is revealed to have dyslexia; in “Have It All”, it’s hinted at but not outright stated. Moose is just considered to be a football star, but he recognizes (and rightfully resents) that his peers consider him to be slow, and he understands that school isn’t his strong suit, but doesn’t get why he struggles because he doesn’t have the eloquence to express his difficulties. His English teacher of all people should realize there’s an issue beyond Moose “not trying hard enough,” but instead just tells Moose that if he tries really hard, his grades could improve. This is an embarrassingly common problem in the modern education system, students with learning disabilities are dismissed because they excel in a particular area and otherwise present as “normal,” and this could have been explored in a longer format. The oneshot was heartwarming, perfectly-balanced, and utterly compelling. I really wish that Archie Comics had chosen to turn this into an ongoing, using “Have It All” as a springboard.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Big Moose (“The Big Difference,” by Gorf and Ryan Jampole)
This oneshot may have gotten an unfairly inflated rating because it actually does a good job reflecting life with a physical disability, and since I’m part of that crowd and have been since birth, well, I am delighted whenever a physical disability shows up in literature and is used as more than just a crutch. Literally, it’s kind of embarrassing how engrossed I get in stories like this. Anyway, this strangely heartwarming story is about Moose earning a new number one fan— Colin Gates, a boy with an unspecified physical disability, who uses crutches and splints. He soon becomes Moose’s shadow, determined to keep up with the athlete— and Moose is the only one who doesn’t treat him like he’s made of glass because he’s disabled. When Jughead— of all people— warns Moose that he has to start treating Colin differently because he is different, high school-level chaos ensues. I absolutely loved this one and, again, would support an ongoing series that was just as much about Moose as it is about Colin, because both are strangely compelling. Moose has a heart of gold, Colin is determined to make his place in the world.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Jughead: The Hunger by Frank Tieri and Michael Walsh
Another book that got picked up as an ongoing series, Jughead: The Hunger is definitely in line with Afterlife With Archie and Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina. It works on the premise that Jughead Jones (Patient Zero in Afterlife With Archie) is a bloodthirsty werewolf who has been ripping the citizens of Riverdale to bloody shreds during the full moon. I didn’t love this quite as much as I expected to, and in fact found one plot point so cliché that I was rolling my eyes while reading. As a oneshot the art was beautiful, but the script was rushed and kind of crammed and it doesn’t hold a candle to Aguirre-Sacasa’s work. I’ll still be checking out the ongoing because I want to give it a fair shake, but all Jughead: The Hunger did was upset me because Afterlife won’t be getting anything new until after Christmas.
Rating: 3 out of 5
So, I’m recommending The Archies And Other Stories have a place on the shelf with the caveat that it may not be for you. I’ve been loyal to these characters and their stories since childhood, but if you’ve never been a superfan or even just a fan, I think you can judge pretty well whether or not this one is for you. However, I will say that Big Moose is worth its price tag! If you want The Archies And Other Stories, check it out here.
On The Shelf Rating: 3.6 stars (nothing snappy this time, I’m sorry) out of 5.