Thursday, September 08, 2016
Comic Shop Comics: September 7
The first eight (excellent) issues of the series were written by Chip Zdarsky, and he is gone now, but he's been replaced by Ryan North, of Dinosaur Comics, Adventure Time, Midas Flesh* and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Fame (North also brings the "alt-text" style gags to the bottom of the pages, noting that it gives us "extra jokes...FOR THE SAME LOW< LOW PRICE!!" and that, of course, "Chip was RIPPING YOU OFF.". If you're teen comedy comic must lose the writer of Marvel's current, excellent Howard The Duck, who better to replace him with than the writer of Marvel's Squirrel Girl...?
Derek Charm, who drew the previous two issues, remains on as the artist, and that is good news, because that guy is excellent. I think he may be my favorite of the half-dozen or so artists who have drawn the new Archie comics, and that is saying something, because that is some strong company (Fiona Staples, Veronica Fish, Erica Henderson, etc).
So in this issue, Jughead, famous among the Archie characters for his complete and total lack of any and all interest in romance of any kind, meets a girl who is is interested in. She is a burger mascot working outside of Pop's, who appears to be a giant hamburger with only her clearly feminine arms and legs sticking out. Jughead's brain, which has long ago learned how to access burgers and ladies, can't deal with a "burger lady," and shuts down.
Gradually, the two strike up something of a friendship, since he does go and eat a burger or 50 there a day, and, eventually, she confesses to be new in town and not knowing anyone, and, since he seems normal, she asks if perhaps she would like to hang out. He agrees, to which she replies "It's a date," which would make this...Jughead's first date?
When he, and we, finally meet her on the second to last page, he has no idea who she is. You'll recognize her though, and, if not, she introduce herself on the last page. Guy, it's Sabrina The Teenage Witch. WHO IS ON THE COVER OF THIS VERY COMIC BOOK. And also on all of its variants. And now that I look at the back cover, I see there's a paragraph summary of the contents that actually says that Sabrina The Teenage Witch is the Burger Lady. And yet somehow, somehow, I was still shocked when it was revealed that she was the Burger Lady in the story.
This means either one of two things. First, I am dumb. Or second, North and Charm did such an excellent job on this comic, so thoroughly drawing me in to this particular version of Riverdale that I had forgotten what I had seen on the cover. Or, I suppose, some combination of the two. Anyway, that's why I wanted to spoil this, although it looks like Archie Comics kinda went ahead and tried its best to spoil it anyway, for some reason. The central mystery of this issue was so strong that it still shocked me with its reveal, even with the answer having been waved in front of my face for weeks and weeks now.
North makes excellent use of the supporting cast, as they react to Jughead's disinterest in the opposite sex and then the prospect of him actually having a date and he gets advice from each of their unique perspectives. Archie's is, in particular, rather delightful, to the extent that I found myself wondering how great a North/Charm Archie might be (not that that book needs a new creative team or anything).
In all of the cases of character interaction, it's Charm's art that sells the gags. Archie's conspiratorial face when he explains his one drink, two straw plan, or Sabrina's elbow to Jughead's chest shortly after she first means him sans hamburger costume--the "acting" is just superb.
Anyone worried about the fate of Jughead once Zdarsky left need worry no longer. It remains just as good as it was previously.
My past self might not listen to my future, time-travelling self. Paper Girls is by a writer we both like, it's by an artist we both like and it's ony $2.99--why wouldn't we read it serially?
Well, because it doesn't read particularly well serially. Brian K. Vaughan fills it with the big, perfectly timed beats of his best books, but unlike, say, Saga, because the mysterious goings-on of the book are the focus, rather than the characters, it can sometimes read a little like "And then this crazy thing happens," and, read 20-ish pages every 30 days or so, with hundreds of pages of other comics read between each installment, it can be a little overwhelming to the point of confusing, and I feel like I would appreciate the overall package a lot more if I were reading it in trade paperback-sized chunks, instead of monthly story slivers.
*Did you guys read Midas Flesh? It is sooo good! You should totally read it. It's funny, in that it's got some jokes in it and the characters are fun to hang around, but it's also serious science fiction and fantasy with a tone unlike any of the other things in that list of North-written comics, except maybe some of the more sober Dinosaur Comics strips. Also, it too has a dinosaur in it.