Babies, Blurs, Tours and More

A column article by: Penny Kenny

Archie Comics' latest graphic novels cover a wide range of genres and feature a variety of characters. If you can't find something that appeals to you, you're not trying.

Archie: World Tour by Alex Simmons & Rex Lindsey (978-1-879794-73-3, $9.95). While on a globe spanning field trip Archie and the gang become involved in international intrigue as they're targeted by mysterious foreign agents. Along with the four-part "World Tour" storyline, this volume also contains Hal Lifson's "The Archies in London," a cover gallery, and informational pages on each country visited. Featuring an entertaining and well-executed plot, strong characterization, attractive art, and dynamic action sequences, this book is a must have for fans of mystery adventures.

The Archie Babies by Mike Kunkel & Art Mawhinney (978-1-879794-72-6, $9.95). For Archie Comics' first original material graphic novel, the company took a step backwards - to when the characters were infants at the "Wee Tots Nursery." The five stories revolve around the kids using their vivid imaginations to deal with every day problems such as bullies; a rainy day; learning to count; and substitute teachers. The latter story is my favorite, though they're all cute. The gang decides the substitute teacher is an alien who has turned their regular teacher into a flower. Their "rescue" attempts are adorable. Art Mawhinney and inker Rich Koslowski do a beautiful job on the art. The kids have a big head-small body, bobblehead shape to them that's charming. The backgrounds look like cels for an animated TV show. Matt Herms' colors are luminescent, adding richness to the pages. Sprinkled between the stories are activity pages featuring jokes, riddles, dot-to-dots, and mazes. This volume could easily become something parents enjoy reading to their younger children.

The Best of Archie (978-1-879794-84-9, $9.95). If you can buy only one Archie book this year, make it this one. With over four hundred pages for around ten dollars and a collection of stories that begins with Archie's first appearance, ends with the updated Jinx, and features everyone from Sabrina, Ginger, Josie, and Super Duck in-between, you can't go wrong. This volume is a wonderful celebration of Archie and company. Along with chapters from newer works such as the "Life with Archie" magazine, readers also get to see the birth of Jughead's little sister Jellybean; the first racy appearance of Cheryl Blossom; the first chapter of the "Love Showdown" storyline; Archie newspaper strips, and classic Katy Keene pin-up pages. Short essays detailing the fads and movements of each decade and how they influenced the comics introduce each section. Writers, artists, and people behind the scenes at the publisher's offices also offer comments on each story. One of the things I particularly like is that credits are included with the stories. I can now identify Henry Lucey as one of the artists from the 60s and 70s whose work I really like.

The Best of Archie's Weird Mysteries by Paul Castiglia & Fernando Ruiz (978-1-879794-74-0, $9.95). Yes! Finally, a collection of Archie's Weird Mysteries! The series began as an animated TV program, then migrated to the comic books, where it outlasted the show it was based on. Actually I want an omnibus of all the Weird Mysteries, but I'll take what I can get for now. For those unfamiliar with the basic set-up, each issue Archie and the gang encounters a supernatural, alien, or legendary threat. In this volume alone they confront a celluloid ghost, Bigfoot, alien baseball players, and Scarlet the vampire. There are also some winks and nods at pop cultural icons - including a certain group of teens and their dog who solve strange mysteries. The scripts are sharp, clever, and funny. The art is dynamic and attractive. Rick Taylor and Stephanie Vozzo's colors are lovely and Vickie Williams contributes some fabulous inking. This book is a must have for fans of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps and Johnathan Rand's American Chillers series.

Archie & Friends All Stars Vol. 13: Sabrina based on the animated series by Mike Gallagher & Dave Manak (978-1-879794-80-1, $9.95). A tween-aged Sabrina tries to balance school, friends, and magic in this collection of stories inspired by the popular animated TV series. These are fun, light stories that young readers can connect to. Despite her magic, Sabrina has the same problems your average elementary aged girl does: "mean girls," responsibility issues, and boyfriend troubles. Manak's art retains the animated look while still being expressive on the page.

Sonic the Hedgehog Archives Volume 15 (978-1-879794-70-2, $7.95). The Blue Blur encounters Monkey Khan for the first time, teams up with Knuckles, battles Master Mogul, and searches for the wizard Ixis Naugus in this collection of issues #55-58 of the classic Sonic comic book. The Archives are a great way for new readers to catch up on Sonic and company's history and this volume in particular is worth picking up just because it offers so many of heavy-hitting villains in one package.

Reasonable prices, attractive and sturdy packaging, and enjoyable stories. What more could you want?

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