[This material originally appeared in Comics Buyer’s Guide #1682.]
The cover says Kevin Keller #1, but the indicia says Veronica #207
[Archie Comics; $2.99]. Either way, this first of four issues is
one of the best comic books of the year from a publisher who’s been
knocking them out of the park on a regular basis.
Kevin is a gay teenager recently moved to Riverdale. The nature of
the all-ages Archie titles is such that we haven’t seen anything of
the negativity too many gay teens face in the real world. On the
other hand, I love that Kevin has supportive friends and parents.
If his lot is easier than some, well, that sort of goes with living
in Riverdale. Heck, if I knew where Riverdale was, I’d have moved
there years ago.
Writer/penciller Dan Parent tells an amusing story that includes an
intriguing shadow of things to come: Kevin’s desire to follow his
dad into military service. Kudos also go to inker Rich Koslowski,
letterer Jack Morelli, and everyone else who worked on the issue.
I’m still waiting for the issue when Kevin actually goes out on a
date, but Archie Comics have already taken bigger steps that many
other comics publishers and certainly more than any other all-ages
publisher in memory.
Archie has a healthy trade paperback program going, collecting its
multi-issue stories into spiffy volumes. Not only are the stories
themselves entertaining, but the collections also contain extras of
interest to comics fans.
Archie & Friends: Night at the Comic Shop [$9.95} reprints the pair
of two-issue stories wherein characters from non-Archie comics of
the 1940s and 1950s crossed over into modern Riverdale. Written by
Fernando Ruiz with pencils by Ruiz and Bill Galvin and inks by Jim
Amash, the stories are hilarious and nostalgic fun. Also included
in this book is a 29-page “Who’s Who in the MLJ Universe” that is
breathtaking in its coverage of dozens of interesting characters.
Writers Paul Castiglia and Ian Flynn contributed to this section.
For me, this book is a must-have.
Archie: The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. [$9.95] reprints the four-
issue story by writer Tom DeFalco with penciller Fernando Ruiz and
inker Rich Koslowski. It’s an entertaining thriller that featured
Mad Doctor Doom and the villainous organization C.R.U.S.H. Backing
up the espionage excitement was a selection of “top secret” files
and an incredible find: a never-before-published adventure starring
Archie’s cousin, special agent Andy Andrews. The story was written
and drawn by the great Harry Lucey in the 1950s and is a straight-
on Cold War mystery. Another must-have book.
One of my favorite super-hero comic books is Mr. Jigsaw by writer
Ron Fortier and artist Gary Kato [Redbud Studio; $2.99 per issue].
The “Man of a Thousand Parts” is likeable Charlie Grant who has the
astonishing ability to split off those thousand parts from his body
while controlling them all. He’s a traditional “white hat” super-
hero but he never strikes me as corny or out-of-fashion. Indeed,
we could use more super-heroes like him.
Issues #7-9 offer a variety of story types. The first of the three
issues has “The Secret Life of Charlie Grant,” a fanciful look at
the hero’s daydreams.
Issue #8 is a moving tale of heroism and sacrifice for the greater
good. It’s more serious than most of Jiggy’s adventures, but is far
from lacking in humor.
Issue #9 has three short stories: “A Puzzle Called Charlie,” “The
Boring Captain Yawn,” and “Mr. Jigsaw’s Secret Love Child.” Despite
the wacky laughs to be found in each of these tales, they also have
a core of real humanity that delights me.
You don’t need a vast army of super-heroes to tell great super-hero
stories. You just need one remarkable character and a supporting
cast that fulfills that role magnificently. So why are you reading
all those big company super-hero comics you don’t really enjoy when
you could be reading Mr. Jigsaw instead?
To order issues of Mr. Jigsaw, go here:
One more for the road and a wild road it will be if you take your
Tipster’s advice and get yourself a copy of The Comeback Kings #1
[Ardeen; $2.99]. The world is in desperate need of saving and that
means an elite team of “dead” celebrities - Bruce Lee, Elvis, Jimi
Hendrix, Tupac, and, yes, comedian Andy Kaufman - must return from
their faked demises. A sixth king is revealed on the final page of
this debut issue, but I don’t want to spoil anymore surprises than
necessary to get you to check out this series.
Writers Matt Sullivan and Gabe Guarente have created this semi-dark
satire that cries out for a long-life in comics and - dare I say? -
a big-screen motion picture. You could have hours of fun deciding
what actors would play these wonderful roles.
The issue does suffer from a lack of color, but artist Ethan Young
has delivered a creditable job of capturing the aged likenesses of
the cast and of telling the story. I note the lack of any comeback
queens in this first issue, but, hey, hopefully, we’ll see some of
the ladies in the near future. I vote for Marilyn.
In the interest of full disclosure, Ardeen is the company that has
teamed with Jason Goodman’s Atlas Comics to publish The Grim Ghost
title written by me, and I work closely with Ardeen editor and co-
publisher Brendan Deneen. But, as veteran readers of this column
know, I rarely hesitate to bite the various hands that feed me when
it comes to presenting my honest recommendations or warnings about
comics reviewed here.
If you want a second opinion, my son Eddie Isabella, a super-senior
at The Ohio State University and a rock-and-roll expert, liked this
first issue as well. Two Isabellas can’t be wrong.
Comeback Kings is intended for mature readers.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2011 Tony Isabella