Sunday, February 15, 2015

Archie #664

    Stepping in with a Guest Review is my pal James Cassara (if you'd like to send in a review of your own, just use the email address in the column on the right). He passes along some thoughts on everyone's favorite teenager. Thanks, James! 
   Within the “regular” Archie Comics universe (put in quotes as I do acknowledge that Archie and company are fictional characters) there exists a subset of “imaginary” Archie tales, generally set outside of Riverdale and often set in entirely different times.  
   Archie Versus Punisher is probably the most well known (and an Archie Versus Predator title is forthcoming) but our carrot-topped crooner has been to other planets, other realms, and all sorts of alternative universes. 
   So there’s plenty of precedent for Archie #664 and “Game of Phones.” I’m unfamiliar with the George R. R. Martin-created books, as well as the hugely successful television franchise based on said books, but the beauty of the Archie spin-offs is that one need not be a fan of the source material to enjoy them. 
   When they’re done well the humor and situations are self-contained, faithful enough to the Archie characters that adherence to the subject of the parody is unimportant. 
   Unfortunately “Game of Phones” is a bit of a jumbled mess. Set in the ancient kingdom of Riveros (populated by the usual Archie cast of characters) it pits two warring families - the Logister clan, whose daughter Veronsei longs to be Queen, versus the Starch group, whose bumbling son Archie hopes to succeed the retiring King Weatherby.  
   Not a bad premise and one which, with loyal but conniving subjects on both sides, could easily replicate the antics of the Riverdale we know and love. 
   But the story is derailed by a convoluted subplot of phone texting and messaging (hence the “Game of Phones”) that feels contrived and lacks a clear focus. The inclusion of a race of giants, who are forced to choose sides, further muddies the waters of an already thin plot.
   There’s a lot of potential here but I get the sense that this would have worked better as a two or three part mini-series.  Cramped into a 20 pages it reads like a rush job. 
   Oh well. Archie Comics are known for their consistently entertaining stories, a prescribed structure that allows for occasional detours, some of which work better than others.  
   If you’re a fan of the Archie Universe you’ll probably excuse this issue as a miscalculation. 
   If this is your first Archie in a while you’ll likely be left scratching your head, to which I say “try them again next month!”
Grade: B-

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