Archie #600 (Archie Comic Publications)
by Michael Uslan, Stan Goldberg & Bob Smith
This comic book — in which Archie Andrews proposed to one of his long-time objects of affection, Veronica Lodge — is definitely a success purely from a marketing perspective. The people at Archie Comics have done well to get this noticed in the mainstream media, but it comes as little surprise given what pop-culture icons these characters are. As for the storytelling within, it’s cute and diverting, but it’s not nearly as impressive as this issue’s promotional campaign. It reads a bit like one of those Silver Age Superman stories edited by Mort Weisinger, in that it’s a bit of an “imaginary” story. That makes sense, since these characters aren’t meant to change drastically. Furthermore, writer Michael Uslan also leaves the door open for Archie to explore what would happen if he’d proposed to Betty Cooper (with whom, I think you’ll agree, we all think he should end up). Despite the kitsch factor, I came away from the comic feeling as though it was entirely missable. I wasn’t disappointed I picked it up, but neither was I all that taken with it either.
Stan Goldberg’s art for this milestone is rendered in a classic Archie style, though I found most panels and pages to be rather cramped. It was interesting to see how Goldberg tweaks the looks of the Archie gang as adults. They still look like the characters we’ve come to know and love over the years, but there definitely is a slightly more grown-up look at play. 6/10
Blackest Night: Superman #1 (DC Comics)
by James Robinson, Eddy Barrows & Ruy Jose
I’ve been enjoying DC’s Blackest Night brand and plotting, both in the main event title and the spinoff series as well, so I didn’t pause in picking up this latest tangent of DC’s cosmic super-hero war . Unfortunately, I think I’ve reached my saturation level when it comes to Blackest Night debut issues. James Robinson’s incorporation of the premise into Superman’s corner of the DC Universe is consistent with what we’ve seen of the Black Lantern concept before. In fact, it’s too consistent. Robinson opts to introduce the concept in pretty much the same way as other writers have before him, and it ends up coming off redundant. The tension is lacking in this issue as a result of the repetition, and because the cover art (both of ’em) spoil the chilling resurrection that serves as the driving force of this side plot. With Blackest Night: Batman, writer Peter J. Tomasi offered an accessible introduction to the new status quo in the Batman books, but Robinson can’t say the same. References to the New Krypton elements in this comic book proved to be confusing rather than informative.
Visually, this issue is pretty strong. Eddy Barrows’s art has really developed quite a bit since I saw in such titles as The All-New Atom and 52. It’s much darker and more detailed than what I remember of the penciller’s style. Actually, if the credits had listed the Blackest Night art team of Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert as being responsible for this issue, I would have had no problem in believing it. My favorite part of the visual side of the storytelling is the colors, specifically how they’re being used to convey how the heroes feel about what’s going on and about other characters at any given moment. We’ve seen the technique used in other BN comics, but it’s used more extensively here and to greater effect than we’ve seen before. 5/10
Chew #3 (Image Comics)
by John Layman & Rob Guillory
I’m thrilled that Chew has proven to be a big hit for Image Comics because it’s really something of an aberration in mainstream comics: something original and well outside the norm. Sure, The Walking Dead is a big sales success for Image as well, but while it’s a well-crafted comic, it’s a zombie story, and we’ve seen plenty of entries in the genre in the past and more recently as well. Chew really defies description, and I’m not talking about the plot. To describe it simply as a surreal comedy would fail to capture its essence. While black humor dominates the book, there’s definitely more to it. Layman’s plot — with its gross-out humor and weird elements — would seem to present itself as a low-brow story, but really, Chew is clever and novel. It also boasts a quiet humanity behind all of the extreme elements. We get a glimpse at Tony’s sense of impotence in the final scene, and his troubles with his boss is meant to mirror our own grounded frustrations with life in the workplace.
This issue introduces another unusual character, food writer Amelia Mintz, whose compelling prose about dining is so compelling that it can actually impart the taste experience to the reader. She’s an ideal match for the main character. More than that, though, she represents a breath of fresh air in the cast of characters. Until now, Tony was the only truly likeable and even sane figure in the world of Chew. Amelia is another sane soul who’s on an unusual mission of her own, and I hope Layman doesn’t make us wait too long until we see more of her.
Guillory’s distorted linework and designs reinforce the unique and unusual qualities of the story and characters. He clearly crafts Amelia to be a beauty, but he avoids the typical curves that artists usually employ to convey beauty. Instead, her form is as misshapen as everyone else’s, so the artist conveys her attractive qualities through a shining smile, perkiness and confidence. I also loved the gruesome greens he employs to convey the stomach-churning results of Amelia’s work. 9/10
Ultimate Comics Avengers #1 (Marvel Comics)
by Mark Millar, Carlos Pacheco & Danny Miki
As I noted in a capsule review of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1, the first thing that strikes me about this comic book is the wholly uninteresting design that’s been developed for Marvel’s relaunched Ultimate line. As for Carlos Pacheco’s art, he does a decent job of maintaining the kind of widescreen style that characterized the various Ultimates titles that served as a predecessor for this new series. The appearance of his art in this comic book took me off guard, though. It’s not really recognizable as his style. His cover art looks more like Doug (The Brave and the Bold) Braithwaite’s work, and the interiors put me in mind of such artists as Tom (Dark Reign: Hawkeye,/I>) Raney and Stuart (New Avengers) Immonen. they do good work, but Pacheco’s art here rarely looks like Pacheco’s art. I do like the design for the Ultimate incarnation of the Red Skull as well.
Millar’s plot is a typically action-oriented, and I have to admit he handles such fare quite well. I love the over-the-top stunts the heroes perform. There’s definitely a blockbuster-movie sensibility at play in how the action is choreographed. The revelation on the final page definitely piqued my interest in what the new Red Skull’s all about, but it also smacks of gratuitous shock value. Whether or not this version of the villain turns out to be an interesting one remains to be seen. 6/10
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