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B & V Friends Double Digest #210

A comic review article by: Penny Kenny
Cheryl Blossom’s obsession with putting new student Pieter in his place continues. But as her loyal subjects begin to challenge her authority and supremacy, she considers enlisting an unlikely ally in part two of Tania Del Rio and Jeff Shultz’s "Queen B."

Del Rio really has a firm grasp of Cheryl’s character. The teen exhibits all the worst traits we’ve seen in previous appearances: bossiness, stubbornness, jealousy and an utter disregard for any one else’s feelings. Yet, Cheryl’s a sympathetic character too. One we find ourselves liking despite ourselves. The fact that Cheryl is very much the viewpoint character here; that we see everything through her eyes and that she narrates the story makes that possible.

Two scenes really stand out. The first opens the story: Cheryl is making one of her minions guess what nail polish she wants, then dismisses her when she gets it wrong. Over the top? Not at all. There are tweens and early teen girls at the school where I work who play that kind of power game all the time. In a scene that lasts only eight panels, Del Rio establishes how the characters relate to one another and the main theme of the story, while relating it to something girls get. Most girls have been on the wrong end of the Junior-Senior High power struggle and most, at one time or another, dream of being in Cheryl’s position.

In the second scene we see Cheryl in an unexpected role: working to find homes for abandoned dogs. Without being untrue to anything that came before, and with some wry self-knowledge on Cheryl's part, Del Rio adds another dimension to the red-headed girl's character. The scene advances the story on both the emotional and strictly narrative fronts. Though "Queen B" isn't drawn in what most people think of as manga-style, the story is very shojo manga in its way of addressing character issues.

Speaking of art, Jeff Shultz, inker Al Milgrom, colorist Barry Grossman, and letterer John Workman do a beautiful job bringing Cheryl's world to life.

With the smaller-sized pages of the digest and the large amount of dialog, you'd expect the art to look cramped, the panels overstuffed. Nope. Shultz puts a lot in his panels, but they're not crowded. Though there's quite often a separate story going on in the background, it's nothing that distracts from the major action. It's bonus material for those who take the time to study the panels.

The characters expressions and body language are fluid. Actions are exaggerated. Cheryl leaps a foot off the floor; she whacks her brother around; she screams at the heavens. But for tweens and teens, the overly dramatic is the norm, so this strengthens their connection to the character.

Shultz also does quiet moments well. One of the best panels this chapter features Cheryl and Pieter in a full-length shot against a blank white background. He considers her thoughtfully while she stares back with a defiant pout. It sums up their relationship and characters beautifully.

The editors put together an especially strong selection of backup stories for this digest. There are half-pagers, one-pagers, fashion pages, humor pin-ups, and hair care tips pages. Veronica's cat and a pre-Pussycat Josie star in stories. Tween witch Sabrina and Li'l Jinx appear.

One of the best of the reprints is "The Flaw of Averages," which has a string of bad luck bringing Betty down. Most readers will totally relate to the situation Betty finds herself in. The punchline is funny and the art is great looking, especially the energetic basketball scenes.

"Please Don't Repeat Yourself" has Veronica using a magic amulet to improve her day. This eleven-pager features some neat twists.

In the "Betty's Diary: Big Reunion" reprint, Betty images what things will be like ten years after graduation. While the story is fun and works on its own, if you're reading the Life With Archie: the Married Life you can't help but compare the two storylines. There are a couple futures in Betty's version that I actually like a little better. I'd guess the one date mentioned in this story was edited for this appearance to make it work for today's readers.

B & V Friends Double Digest #210 is a must-have for Cheryl Blossom fans, and is highly recommended for readers looking for some entertaining and well-illustrated stories.

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