Comic Publishers

August 19, 2016

FFGTGR: Back to School With Archie!

From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No.198

Hello, and welcome back to our all-ages comics column, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! I hope you’ve been staying cool this summer as the season begins to wind down, and as stores everywhere have slowly become dotted with “Back To School” sections, we are all overly reminded that Fall will soon be amongst us. As I began writing this week’s column, I noticed this is edition no.198, and we are getting close to that 200 milestone. Throughout all these years writing, we’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry, but there’s one thing that thankfully (despite having a recent art style face lift) hasn’t changed: Archie! Ironically, our review this week finds Archie, as well, going back to school for the year.

archiedd271Archie: Back to School Annual (Archie Double Digest #271)
Publisher: Archie
Story: Dan Parent, George Gladir, Frank Doyle, and many more
Art: Dan Parent, Tim Kennedy, Harry  Lucey, and many more

The greatest thing about the Archie line of Double Digests is how much great material you get for the low dollar figure. It’s thick with content, it’s perfectly sized to be portable, and time after time it proves worthwhile to just pick up and dig in, even if you are not a subscriber and just nab one at a grocer or a Target once a year.

Archie Double Digest #271 has become known as the Back to School Annual at this point due to its content around this time every year, and the cover (a cute one by Dan Parent) proudly displays that in its title. As a kid, some years I was thrilled about going back, while others I dreaded the day, and reading this month’s digest made all those memories I haven’t thought of in a long while come back to me (I graduated college nearly ten years ago, so my back-to-school blues are a little rusty).

As usual with a Double Digest, it is knee deep with content, which sometimes provides us reviewers a challenge when trying to write about dozens and dozens of 1-10 page tales. Yet here, never fear, there are a handful of quality standouts for me to certainly tell you why you should put your cash down on this! Dan Parent’s “The Freshman’s Guide to Riverdale High” opens the issue with a memorable tale in which Archie escorts a very nervous Freshman around on his first day at Riverdale.

The digests are mostly known for doing a little new work and mostly reprinting a chunk of classics, but here we get a reprint of a really recent “new” classic, with part 1 of 5 of Archie’s “Freshman Year” mini-series, that was written by Batton Lash and drawn by Bill Galvan. The short sets up our favorite cast as they graduate middle school and prep to start their fated infamous high school lives.

Doyle and Lucey team up and do outstanding work on the classic “Love In Bloom,” catching Archie and Veronica on the outs at school, delivered with perfect art and comedic timing. Also very memorable is “Coach Kleats Conducts a Sports Tour,” in which the Coach narrates to the reader¬†directly on a guided tour around school! Very cool and inventive, yet sadly, like many golden/silver age comics, they must’ve had trouble figuring out who wrote and drew it since no writer or artist was credited.

And Little Archie fans, don’t worry, there’s a small grouping of stories here for you, too!

And again, those are just a few of dozens of stories in this gigantic double digest!

In final thought, as I’ve mentioned before in this column, the line of Archie digests and double digests are both so packed with good material at a great price point, they are hard not to pass up if you are a comic lover. Always delivering at least part of its quality into spot-on-territory, the comedic lives of these wacky high school teenagers can find a place in even the most stone-like of hearts.

On sale now.

That’s it for this week, see you next!




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