When the first press releases revolving around Archie#600 (August 2009) hit the inboxes of people in mainstream media and the blogsphere (including those of local bloggers), it proved that many of the recipients should have had the word "sucker" printed on their foreheads.
For those unfamiliar with the situation, Archie#600 features the first chapter of a six-part story in which Archie Andrews "marries" Veronica Lodge.
Since his first appearance in Pep Comics#22 (December 1941) Archie Andrews (allegedly inspired by Mickey Rooney's "Andy Hardy" films) and his friends, known as "The Archies" when playing music, has been one of the few consistent staples of the comic inustry to remain in print.
Unlike "Andy Hardy," The Archies never disappeared from the public's consciousness.
As such, generations of, both, serious and casual comic readers have grown up following the predictable paint-by-number adventures of the gang.
That, my friends, is what's most problematic with Archie#600 and, as such, is what concerns me the most: nothing ever really changes in any significant way in the Archie Universe.
The reporters and bloggers who were seduced by the aforementioned press releases forgot about the static elements of Archie characters and didn't realize something else: the six-part story is, in a sense, a "what-if" story which is expected to conclude without any lasting impact on the lives of any of the characters.
Written by Michael Uslan, the producer of every Batman movie since the 1980s, "Archie Marries Veronica, Part 1: The Proposal" begins with Archie returning home after the band's last gig before graduation. His parents nudge at him to make a decision relating to college because time's ticking away.
In need of fresh air and a temporary escape from pressure, Archie takes a walk up Memory Lane, not down, which enables him to see, roughly, five years (or so) into the future. Armed with a recently acquired history degree but no job, he decides to do something "important". He buys an engagement ring and proposes to Veronica(!) Betty Cooper reacts to the engagement as if she has nothing to live for now that Archie's taken.
(Is it 1955 or something?)
I respect that Archie Comics is a business out to make a profit and, like other comic companies, they do whatever they can to generate sales and basic interest in their products. That's fine but "Archie Marries Veronica" was hyped despite not having any lasting effects on the characters.
In my opinion, if they want to attract more readers, Archie Comics should allow their characters to evolve with the times and be presented in stories that are more sophisticated. Within those stories, the characters should behave in a more realistic manner based on their ages.
Let's face it: Archie and the gang may be physically in their late-teenage years but they act like they're 13 or so (or less!).
I have often wondered: "Is Archie (literally) retarded or something?"
Since I don't think any of The Archies have ever made it to "2nd Base" and we're in 2009, I don't think marriage should be a top-priority for any of the characters.
Actually, unless Archie realizes before the six-part story concludes that it's a bad life decision, it would be irresponsible to present marriage as the "thing to do" for characters in their early-20s to children.
Archie should be seen living life and experimenting with different things (like sex) before he gets tied-down with marriage.
However, we can't expect too much modern and progressive behavior and thinking from characters that regularly appeared in religious comics during the 1970s and 1980s, can we?
Next is Usagi Yojimbo Book Seven by Stan Sakai.
Reprinting Usagi Yojimbo#32-38 and Critters#38 from the 1980s and 1990s, it follows the adventures of the anthropomorphic samurai white bunny rabbit and his allies.
Some may know the character thru his appearances in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure toy line.
The bulk of Usagi Yojimbo Book Seven consists of Yojimbo and his occasional partner, Murakami Gennosuke, a samurai rhinoceros, helping Lady Asano avenge her husband's death.
Meanwhile, Gennosuke discovers something about the fate of his father"¦.
With its violence and lack of colour, the book is reminiscent of early-TMNT with seemingly more apparent humour.
Its escapism is worthy of its reader's time.
Publisher: Archie Comics
Usagi Yojimbo Book Seven: 7/10
Publishers: Fantagraphics Books, Inc.
Bernard C. Cormier is, among other things, a freelance writer and broadcaster. www.myspace.com/bernardccormier. www.twitter.com/bernardccormier. E-mail: Bernardccormierfirstname.lastname@example.org © Bernard C. Cormier 2009