Life with Archie #14

A comic review article by: Penny Kenny

On a surreal Halloween night, the dimensional barriers weaken and the two different Archies wander into each other's lives. And what does their old pal Ambrose know about what's going on?

As one of Life with Archie's most devoted fans said in the library recently, "This issue was weird!" While both of us liked the weirdness of the Archies bumbling into their other lives and causing confusion and concern, we were disappointed that the overall plot didn't really move forward. Aside from some cryptic words from Ambrose, nothing's changed from last issue. We're not any closer to finding the Veronica who's missing in "Archie Marries Betty." The Archie of "Archie Marries Veronica" had an epiphany about his marriage, but he's regularly had those and they never go anywhere. And Dilton and the two Mr. Lodges are still meeting and planning to do something, but we still don't know what that something is. Even the really strong scene in which Mrs. Lodge shows some tough love to Mr. Lodge in "Archie Marries Betty" doesn't add much to the plot.

While nothing much happens this issue, Paul Kupperberg does a good job of getting the characters' personalities across and summarizes what's been going on without overly clunky dialog. I think a person new to the series could pick up this issue and have a fair idea of what's going on.

Though artist Norm Breyfogle is missed, pencilers Fernando Ruiz, Pat and Tim Kennedy and inkers Al Milgrom and Bob Smith have kept the book's look consistent. This issue, with its Halloween costume parties and characters expressing extreme emotion, offers plenty of opportunities for the art team to show their stuff. Ruiz's style tends toward a cartoonier look, yet he does some absolutely stunning atmospheric and expressionistic work here. In one panel a blue moon lowers over Riverdale while Archie and Ambrose stand beneath the bare, fog enshrouded trees of Memory Lane. In another wordless scene that runs for a page and a half, Archie races through the dark toward the Lodge mansion. Sneaking about the grounds he encounters the haggard and distraught Mr. Lodge. The way the older man slumps in his chair and his disheveled appearance says more than words could really express.

The Kennedys, who lean toward a slightly more realistic look, give us an absolutely beautiful Mrs. Lodge. Her body language and expressions are fluid and expressive. In the scene where she urges her husband to take action -- any action -- she leans over him, leans away from him, assesses him with shrewd eyes, and finally walks away from him. All the time she's moving, Mr. Lodge is also moving. He slumps, turns away, walks away, and is finally moved to anger. It's a fascinating dance that compliments Kupperberg's words. The Kennedys also draw one of the cuter looking young Dilton's that we've seen. The opening page of "Archie Marries Betty" has the young science geek standing atop a rock formation above Memory Lane holding his electronic gear. It's a scene that sets a tone of nostalgia and mystery.

Of course these scenes wouldn't be half as effective without Glenn Whitmore's colors. He has an incredible gift for choosing the right shades that will bring out the emotion of a scene as well as creating depth. His use of shadow is especially effective.

I can't honestly say Life with Archie #14 is a must have issue, but if you enjoy well-done character moments and beautiful art, you should definitely pick it up.

For the past 13 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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