Big Moose, One-Shot
Writers: Sean Ryan, Ryan Cady & Gorf
Artists: Cory Smith, Thomas Pitilli & Ryan Jampole
Colors: Matt Herms, Glenn Whitmore & Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letters: Jack Morelli
Cover artists: Thomas Pitilli, Cory Smith & Wilfredo Torres
Editors: Mike Pellerito & Jamie Lee Rotante
Publisher: Archie Comics
Price: $4.99 US
I realize this one-shot was released just in April of this year, and I didn’t actually get it at a flea market. No, I got this for a song at my local comic shop, because like many businesses at this time of year, it’s blowing out a lot of stock at deep discounts. And I’m pleased it did, as the $5 price point for an anthology comic featuring a previously one-dimensional supporting character is definitely a deterrent. That’s too bad, because of the three short stories offered here, one is particularly strong and another is heartening and positive in its messaging. Unfortunately, none of this fare struck me as meriting publication in an expensive one-shot. I was left wondering if this material was originally intended for use as backup stories in some of the other revamped Archie titles. Regardless, I’m glad I got a chance to read these stories, but I’m relieved I didn’t have to plunk down the big bucks to do so.
Moose Vs. the Vending Machine: Sean Ryan and Cory Smith’s piece is a spin on the typical gage strips one could find in classic Archie comics, albeit with the new, modern approach that the publisher has adopted for its direct-market titles. It’s also the weakest of the pieces in this one-shot, as it treats Moose like a complete and utter moron, so stupid that it’s off-putting. He’s a neanderthal here, and a bad boyfriend. As a result, the story isn’t particularly funny either. When I started reading this comic book, I was expecting to find a stronger focus on Moose’s character, an exploration that made him relatable and human, something more than the one-note he’s been portrayed as over the years in classic Archie comics. Opening with this piece was definitely a misstep. It’s too bad, because the joke at the heart of the story — Moose’s inability to get an old dollar bill to feed into a vending machine — is a universal experience to which just about everyone can relate, and one needn’t have portrayed Moose as an idiot and hapless victim to pull it off. Ryan’s portrayal of Midge as disapproving and controlling wasn’t welcome either.
Smith’s art portrays Moose just as the script does — as the lunkhead sporting pitiful and blank expressions that reinforce his empty-headed nature. I do appreciate the artist didn’t sexualize Midge. She looks lovely, but there’s no emphasis on her physical curves.And thankfully, that proves to be the case in all three stories in this comic. The panel layouts and lettering for this first story make it seem crowded and rushed, but that actually works with the desperation that drives Moose here.
Have It All: Now this is more like it. Writer Ryan Cady comes through with the character-driven exploration of Big Moose, delving into how his mind works and what motivates him. He meet a guy who does the best he can and wrestles with how best to achieve that goal. We meet his family. We learn why he has trouble with some subjects in school. We discover why he loves Midge so much and why she loves him. It’s a great story about a kid with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility trying to make everyone happy and finally coming to realize it’s OK to ask for help when things start piling up.
Thomas Pitilli’s linework is the roughest and loosest in tone in the comic, but it’s also the most successful is presenting Moose and others as real people. His style is reminiscent of that of Scott McDaniel, but it’s a bit more restrained and captures anatomy effectively and convincingly. If there’s one misstep here, it’s that the adult characters — such as Moose’s mom and his coach — don’t look sufficiently older enough as compared to the main character.
The Big Difference: Gorf’s story juxtaposing Moose — the most physically powerful and adept of the Archive gang — with a new student with a physical disability is far from subtle, but I appreciate that the script doesn’t outright make that point of inclusion and perspective. In this story, Moose’s anger is a positive trait, because it shows he sees Colin as any other schoolmate, not someone to be pitied. Colin’s hero worship doesn’t quite jibe with his repeated attempts to cozy up to Midge, but overall, the story works nicely, even if it’s a little too “After-School Special-ish.”
Ryan Jampole’s manga-inspired artwork is a nice change of pace for the world of Archie and the gang, but I found the first page most striking, because it boasted a riff that put me in mind of the work of such artists as Eduardo Risso and Jason Latour. Jampole also effectively contrasts Colin’s small stature with Moose’s mass without making the latter seem like an implausible hulk of a young man.
Overall, I think Big Moose, One-Shot was a missed opportunity for Archie Comics. The expensive cover price with the uneven quality of the stories made for a missable comic book, but there’s definitely enough promise here to demonstrate that the character could sustain a longer and more in-depth story over the course of a few issues. If the publisher can justify a four-issue limited series for Reggie, certainly it could commission something similar for Big Moose. 5/10