World of Archie Double Digest #9

A comic review article by: Penny Kenny
She's manga-ized Sabrina the Teen-Aged Witch, involved Cheryl Blossom in school politics skullduggery and now Tania Del Rio is sending Archie and the gang to India after Raj's Itube serial catches the eye of famed Bollywood director Kunal Desai in "Love Me Baby, Mumbai!"

Bollywood movies aren't exactly mainstream viewing in my neck of the woods, but the readers in my elementary library won't have any trouble catching on to the fact that the Archies are part of a singing-dancing extravaganza. Partly this is due to the script and partly it's due to Bill Galvan and Bob Smith's art.

Musicals can be difficult to translate to paper. You're dealing with two different art forms. But Galvan and Smith, along with letterer Tom Orzechowski, do a wonderful job of creating a sense of movement and sound during the musical scenes. In one three panel sequence, the curve of the dancers' saris and position of their arms suggest swaying, while the shapes and overlapping of the panels, as well as the lettering of the words and musical notes, reinforce Archie's more "energetic" movements. In a one page splash panel, Galvan uses a roll of film unscrolling across the page to move both the musical and the main story forward. It's a beautiful looking page.

There are lots of beautiful pages in this story. Without overpowering the characters, Galvan fills the background with the cityscape and buildings of Mumbai, subtly reinforcing to the reader that they aren't in Riverdale anymore. The final page depicting Raj and Betty viewing the promenade known as "The Queen's Necklace" at night is absolutely gorgeous. Digikore Studios' colors and shading give the scene richness and depth. Another scene that's laid out particularly well is the one where Raj gets the call from Desai. While it's basically two talking heads, Galvan moves in and out on the characters, giving them varied expressions and creating a sense of drama.

Del Rio's script is smart and enjoyable. She gives Raj a real personality. We see he's smart and driven and very nervous. This is his big chance and he wants to make the most of it. He doesn't monologue about this. It's there in his actions and the way he relates to the other characters. His growing attraction to Betty is also well-handled.

Another thing Del Rio does well is the dialog. The characters have different speech patterns. Desai's words have a different rhythm than Archie. Mr. Patel's speech changes in response to whether he's talking to his son Raj or Desai. It's very subtle, but it's there.

Backing up "Love Me Baby, Mumbai!" are several fun reprints, including George Gladir and Joe Edwards' goofy "Alice the Astronaughty Space Girl." This is a "Dumb Blonde" story, with the heroine more concerned about renaming, repainting and redecorating her rocket than space exploration, but it's not without its charms.

Doyle and Lucey's "Teaser for Caesar" is a sharp take on history as "Regibus" and Veronica try to depose Archie Caesar. The script is smart, with some clever word play and allusions. Lucey's art is beautiful. He not only drew a gorgeous Betty and Veronica, but his backgrounds are solid and attractive looking.

"Moving Target" is another fine Doyle and Lucey collaboration. This one features plenty of physical movement and expression. Doyle also teams up with Dan DeCarlo in a pre-Pussycat Josie story "You're the Tops."

In this four-parter Josie and friends try to win a trip to the World's Fair. Again the script is smart and the art is lovely. The panels showing the Fair are superb. The rides and exhibits are detailed without taking over the scene.

In "Doll of Despair" Doyle joins Stan Goldberg to tell a tale of a cursed artifact and the effect it has on Archie. The art is clean and attractive and creates a strong sense of physical movement.

World of Archie Double Digest #9 is a thoroughly enjoyable issue filled with music, romance, laughter, and adventure.

For the past thirteen 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.

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