Best Shots Advance Reviews: ARCHIE #631, ALPHA GIRL #2

Best Shots Advance Reviews

 

Archie #631

Published by Archie Comics

Written by Dan Parent

Art by Dan Parent, Rich Koslowski and Digikore Studios

Letters by Jack Morelli

Review by Erika D. Peterman

’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Betty and Veronica who?

It takes quite a romance to make a love triangle that’s more than 70 years old seem irrelevant. But that’s precisely what happened when Archie and Josie and the Pussycats guitarist Valerie rocked each other’s world in 2010, marking the first interracial relationship in Archie Comics history. This was no bland nod to progress, either. Writer/artist Dan Parent made their courtship sweet, believable and, dare I say it, pretty hot. After years of being a card-carrying member of Team Betty, I’m all about this new direction.

Valerie and Archie parted ways when the Pussycats hit the road, but she’s back in town and the sparks continue to fly. While Veronica fumes, Betty faces reality. “I’m not sure he’s our Archie anymore.” But wait! There’s more. As Valerie’s family settles into their new Riverdale digs, we’re introduced to her cute brother Trev, whose presence sets off a nifty chain of events I sure didn't see coming. Real surprises in an Archie book? Believe it.

Archie Comics seems to be genuinely invested in the Valerie-Archie romance. In issue #633, we’ll see a possible future in which they marry and have a daughter. But for now, Parent simply allows the two to pick up where they left off. Cartoon hearts feature prominently, and the characters are so permanently snuggled on a park bench that Jughead quips, “I thought a new statue had gone up.” Parent makes it all so adorable that you'd have to be hard-hearted to resist. Plus, Valerie's touring lifestyle could make for some good storylines as she and Archie deal with occasionally being apart. It will also be interesting to see how Trev's character develops in future issues, especially in light of the aforementioned plot twist.

As an illustrator, Parent has a style that's simple, clean and classically “Archie.” I really appreciate the fact that Valerie isn’t a photocopy of Betty and Veronica, colored brown. Parent took the time to give her slightly different features and hair, and a style that’s a little bit edgier than Betty and Veronica’s. He definitely has a way with character expressions. I’m thinking of one panel in particular where Valerie fixes Archie with the Icy Glare of Death after he talks about Betty a little too fondly. Digikore Studios provides bright, cheerful colors that pop.

With lighthearted laughs, a touch of drama and plenty of teen romance, Archie #631 is good clean fun.

 

Alpha Girl #2

Written by Jeff Roenning and Jean-Paul Bonjour

Art by Robert Love, Dana Shukartsi and Diego Simone

Lettering by Drew Gill

Published by Image Comics

Review by Vanessa Gabriel

'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

Imagine if were a grindhouse film, met , or Pee Wee from rolled up an issue of … and smoked it. These are the things I think of as I read Alpha Girl, but Alpha Girl #2 isn’t quite any of those things. Faced with a zombie apocalypse caused by a perfume gone wrong, this campy, intentionally gratuitous tale of a 17-year-old girl tries really hard to be fun.

Alpha Girl #2 is just another day in the life of Judith. The darling, foster-home bred, chain-smoking protagonist with the sleek A-line cut black hair works at the local book mart. Immediately, things go from “normal” to seedy, as her co-worker inquires whether or not her urine is diluted. She is selling it to him. But that is just part of Judith’s charm. To supplement her income, Judith is in the business of selling bodily fluids to the highest bidding pervert or just friends in need of some clean pee. The story about her festive entrepreneurial skill is punctuated by a bunch of rabid women on the loose, ripping out the jugulars of men within splatter range. As infrastructure and sanity go to hell, the reason Judith is to become Alpha Girl is set into motion.

Alpha Girl #2 starts with a clear trajectory as it focuses on developing the main character. As the momentum picks up and the story attempts action sequences, the pacing becomes disjointed when switching from first-person narrative to third. There are panels that cut to seemingly random moments where I’m not sure why they are relevant to the story or how exactly we got there. I found myself wanting to keep reading, hoping that there would be some payoff. I didn’t get much in the way of satisfaction. For a book that doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, it was proving to be a lot of work just to make sense of things.

While the story leaves some things to be desired, Robert Love’s stylized, quirky art is quite enjoyable. It is the redeeming quality of Alpha Girl #2. The overtly gratuitous plot is tempered by the colorful, expressive, cartoonish art. From Love’s pencils to Diego Simone’s color, the art of Alpha Girl #2 is fun and excessive, successfully.

My only gripe about the art is the cover. The cover image is a snapshot of a potential moment from the story that seems completely out of context. It does nothing to sell the book. It would play okay in an interior panel, but on the cover it just seems odd.

How did Alpha Girl’s world come crashing down? A cosmetics company's attempt at placing pheromones in perfume turns women into raging zombies. I sense an attempt at a powerful allegory here, or not. A young girl who’s had a tough life is being set up to probably kick some major zombie ass. Perhaps, she will develop into something other than a pixie not-so-dream girl cliché, or not.

I am certain there is an audience for this book. I am also sure that said audience would enjoy it. Does that make it a good comic? Not necessarily. The creators of Alpha Girl get an Anarchist “A” for effort. I can sense the desire to make this story stand out and be entertaining. But compositionally, the comic misses its marks.

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