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Review: ‘Archie Crossover Collection’

Archie Crossover Collection

Archie Crossover Collection
Writers: Dan Parent, Alex Segura, Matthew Rosenberg, Angelo DeCesare and Ian Flynn
Artists: Parent, Gisele Lagace, Jeff Shultz, Jim Amash and Rich Koslowski
Archie Comics: $14.99

Archie Andrews and the gang have starred in some of the more memorable comic book crossovers of the last few decades—memorable for their sheer weirdness if nothing else—hosting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Punisher, Predator, and KISS in their comics. This intriguing new trade paperback doesn’t collect any of those crossovers but is instead filled with instances of the Riverdale residents meeting real human beings of various degrees of stature from even more various fields: The Ramones, Lady Gaga, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, football player-turned-TV host Michael Strahan, and actor/social media presence/emerging gay icon George Takei.

The bulk of these come from single issues from 2011-2013, an era when Archie was rather regularly scoring mainstream headlines with stunt stories, a point in the publisher’s history directly before the current one, in which they seem to have re-focused their attention on telling high-quality, all-ages comedy comics…and the occasional weirdo horror book.

That’s the period from which the best of these stories comes from, Archie Meets Ramones, a 2016 over-sized special in which the forever young teen pop band The Archies are sent back to 1976 New York City via an enchanted Ramones record given to them by Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. There they learn some valuable lessons from The Ramones, like “Don’t worry what anyone else thinks,” “Have fun,” and, of course, “Play fast.”

Co-written by Alex Segura and Matthew Rosenberg, with the cooperation of Ramones Productions, Incorporated (Linda Ramone wrote a brief introduction), that story isn’t just the best in the book, it’s also the weirdest. The bickering Archies are between sets at a battle of the bands when things seem to be falling apart for them. In ’76, they meet the other band at their prime, completely embarrass themselves on stage, go on a wild goose chase scavenger hunt full of allusions to Ramones lore that gradually, accidentally gives them a Ramones-like, punk style, and, finally, play CBGB’s.

As with all of these comics, the main point of weirdness is that it exists at all, as there’s pretty obvious tension between punk and a corporate comic book with copyright-ed likenesses, you know?

That said, the likenesses are all excellent. The Ramones crossover is drawn by Gisèle Lagacé, who employs—or is allowed to employ—a more distinct, individual style than that of frequent Archie artist Dan Parent and the other artists who draw the rest of the crossovers. The gang all look just enough like themselves to be immediately identifiable—ditto the Ramones—but still look like the work of an individual artist with her own style.

It’s an early climax to the trade. What follows it are four issues taken from the pages of Archie, Betty and Veronica, and Kevin Keller, all drawn in the familiar, coloring book-esque style of Parent that dominated the publisher back then, and written in a big, broad way that broadcasts that the comics are more written-for-children than truly all-ages.

Veronica takes Betty to see Lady Gaga perform, and it’s an event that transforms Betty; she starts wearing outrageous costumes and performing in secret as the mysterious pop provocateur known only as “B.” At the climax, Lady Gaga attends a B show.

When Dilton Doiley accidentally belittles Veronica in computer programming class, she hires Mark Zuckerberg to design the school’s new social media platform to undercut Dilton, but the two computer geeks end up hitting it off, ultimately combining their “E-Dale” and “Riverbook” platforms.

When Moose Mason ties the record for quarterback sacks held by a previous Riverdale High School football player right before the championship game, he suddenly quits—because that player was none other than Michael Strahan, and Moose doesn’t want to show up his idol. It takes Strahan getting involved himself to get Moose’s head back in the game.

And, finally, when George Takei sees Kevin Keller’s rather bland and anodyne class report on his hero—Takei, obviously—he’s inspired to leave a nearby comics convention early to go visit Kevin’s school…which works out well since Kevin went to the very same con to meet Takei, but missed him.

Most of these non-Ramones stories have their moments—the Strahan issue, written by Angelo DeCesare, has the most, and is probably the sharpest and funniest of these—but for the most part they feel like awkward commercials for the guest stars, a little too fawning in their portrayals (I think one of the strengths of the Strahan issue is that it makes a joke out of Moose’ fandom, and while Strahan gets the pedestal treatment, he also acts really weird at a few points, making it all feel a little more like an old-school Simpsons guest appearance than some sort of cross-brand marketing exercise). Of course, given the target audience they were created for, that was wholly appropriate, but older readers—say, readers old enough to know what the heck a Ramone is or who George Takei is, or to watch an episode of Riverdale—might be more struck by the oddity of these crossovers than impressed by anything within the story.

But that just means that however one reads this collection’s uneven and wholly unusual contents—earnestly or ironically—the readers should end up having fun of some kind.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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