From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No.189
Howdy ya’ll, and welcome back to another edition of our all-ages comics column, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! This week is SDCC for some, but for me it’s Play Smash Brothers and train my Amiibo Pac-Man to destroy others in battle as I travel elsewhere in the country this week-week! I’ve been writing this column for over five years now, and even in just five years there has been various periods of high and low volume for all ages titles in North America. This year is shaping up to be the most robust since 2012, and hopefully that will stick. Let’s take a look at a trio of comics this week already on the stands.
It’s a little strange to open up my Archie book and see it rebooted, but I am not the intended audience. This Archie is certainly one for the current CW-age, clearly aimed at teens. This issue one reboot follows Archie Andrews and the re-introduction to Riverdale, as the high school is deep in all the gossip of Archie and Betty breaking up over unknown circumstances. Archie addresses the reader directly, pushing the narration along, with little scenic asides by Jughead and the others, discussing the break up and planning to try and vote the two King and Queen at the dance in an attempt to get them back together. Without giving away spoilers and the outcome, I will note the end hints Veronica will be introduced the next issue. The book also includes a reprint of Archie’s first appearance from 1941.
The big winner of the issue is the art by Fiona Staples. Archie has experimented before in the past in their digests with “real looking” characters versus the Archie gang we have seen over the past 75 years. Last time it was done it drew high criticism, with a small enough cult-like following for them to do a few more tales in that style before forgetting about it. This time around, Archie Comics has smartly deployed fan-favorite Staples, who has already done several raved about covers for them, and who like an art-ninja, quickly works her magic to make this new world work. From design to layouts it’s gold. Although it will take seasoned Archie-readers a few pages to get use to the graphic shift, don’t worry, you’ll be locked in and ready to continue on with this by the tale’s end.
The debatable part of the issue comes with Mark Waid’s writing. Certainly there are sites that will sing it to high praise because of the many die hard Waid fans out there with his tenure (and of course direct comics market appeal). Waid doesn’t do a bad story, however, he does write an underwhelming story that feels like everything we’ve seen before, and it doesn’t live up to the “Waid hype” promised. Now, in his defense, and maybe it was to please seasoned fans, it does feel like everything else we’ve read with Archie time and time again, and it’s true that to really mix up Archie these days you need gender-bending, sharknados, Kiss, or Archie as an adult, right? The writing flows nicely, it’ll please some, but please do not expect anything new at all about Waid’s side of the all-new Archie.
Rating: Out of 4 stars, Archie #1 gets a 2.5 from us. Excellent art, predictable high school drama writing. You may want to wait for a collected edition.
Unlike the story in the all-new Archie mentioned above, there is nothing predictable about the comics for SpongeBob and their chances on creativity lately, not fearing to mix it up art or story wise, and all for the betterment of all-ages entertainment. The yearly annual is out, and like the monthly, it chooses to mix wisely with a bevy of sci-fi tale goodness.
After a brilliant set-up (with an equally brilliant pay off at the issue’s end) comes futuristic tales of SpongeBob and company, starting with a Mad Max-like future, followed by a dystopian future where the corporations control all and SpongeBob (in hysterical manner) attempts to defy all. Next stop is Mermaid Man taking his own futuristic trip to comedic circumstances, and lastly there’s Squidward in a smart Planet of the Apes parody.
Writing side none of the tales let down the reader. It was intriguing to see the cast in so many sci-fi variations, clever as well as reminding long time fans of such refreshing mix-ups from TV as the caveman or David Bowie episodes.
The art and layouts hit home runs, as well, on their side of things, each with their own unique styles. The highlight this issue is Raul the Third’s art on the Mad Max-like tale “Bikini Bottom Wasteland.” Feeling somewhere between the underground comics I read in college and the art of Basil Wolverton, its odd brilliance was engrossing.
Rating: Out of 4 stars, we give it a solid 3.5. High recommendation to go run to your local shops and pick up a copy right now.
Finally in this jam packed column we take a look at the first issue of the new relaunch of Nickelodeon Magazine. This comics heavy reboot is off to a good start, featuring stories based off Sanjay and Craig and Breadwinners. There’s one long-form story based off Breadwinners, and three short-form based off Sanjay and Craig.
As we get into this I’ll re-note here in this column that even more than comics, I am a die hard animation guy (luckily I was blessed with a wife who is too, or I would’ve been cursed being single at this point in life), so like other titles based off shows when they start, my bar of comparison here is how good of an adaptation of the source material these books are.
For Breadwinners I will say spot on. The comic felt very much like the TV show, and in this tale our duo, while on a bread delivery, gets caught up with a monster that lays dozens of eggs that hatch into little monsters, causing chaos in both their vehicle and on the rest of their delivery route. The writing and art both felt right for this one.
In the Sanjay and Craig shorts, first is a tale where Sanjay’s Dad drops his ring down the garbage disposal, and Craig has to go rescue it, fighting an army of half eaten food people along the way. Next, a one-pager with a preview of Tufflips’s new film. Finally, a brilliant tale about the family being visited by Sanjay from the future, who comes to prevent a series of bizarre cataclysms happening, due to Sanjay’s Dad offering him a healthy snack instead of chicken wings.
The art on all three is great. Notably the two by Spina are out of this world, cool, grade-A stuff.
The writing by Esquivel is good, and at times feels right for the source material, especially on the final tale “Fight The Future,” with its bizarre sequences one after the other. But it is lacking in comparison to the TV show. Does Esquivel deliver on the bizarre stories? Yes, that is spot on. However, there are no burp or fart jokes here (which is where all fans of the show reading this will now go “whaaaaa?!”). Sanjay and Craig is 100% a fart joke show, there are entire episodes dedicated purely to farts. To have a comic for them without a single panel with one fart joke is a sin. Like Garbage Pail Kids was to 1980s kids, the gross out humor blended into Sanjay and Craig is the equivalent of that for today’s viewers, an intrinsic part of its appeal, and why people love this show. Luckily, this is just issue one, and it honestly shows enough promise to move to issue two with the hope we will see a few farts leaked into the future editions.
All in all, the reboot is off to a good start. I will say this, and hope editor Jim Salicrup hears it – aside from the fart and burp jokes that need to make their way into the Sanjay and Craig tales (as I just beat over the head), you mention having an adaptation of Harvey Beaks coming up. This is gonna be a tough property to adapt given how attached folks are to it (like Adventure Time-level attached). Bring in someone like Chris and Shane Houghton, who created Image’s Reed Gunther (a.k.a. the best all-ages book still of the past 10 years). They work on the actual television show and get comics very, very well; you certainly couldn’t knock it out of the park more than that if you enlist those two.
Rating: out of 4 stars, we give it a 3. Solid start and with the right choices could become a hit out of the park. Go pick it up so you can be in on it from the start.
That’s it for this week! See you in two, folks!