Saturday, January 20, 2024

Comics Review: "WORLD OF ARCHIE DOUBLE DIGEST #136" Revives Two Obscure Features

WORLD OF ARCHIE (JUMBO COMICS) DOUBLE DIGEST #136
ARCHIE COMIC PUBLICATIONS, INC.

STORY: Ian Flynn; Daniel Kibblesmith; with Mike Pellowski; Bill Golliher; Frank Doyle; and various
PENCILS: Holly G!; Steven Butler; with Stan Goldberg; Bill Golliher; Dan DeCarlo, Jr.; and various
INKS: Jim Amash; Lily Butler; with Bob Smith; Rudy Lapick; James DeCarlo; and various
COLORS: Glenn Whitmore; with Barry Grossman and various
LETTERS: Jack Morelli; with Bill Yoshida
COVER: Dan Parent with Rosario “Tito” Peña
192pp, Color, $9.99 U.S. (March 2024); on-sale January 10, 2024

Rating: All-Ages

“One Shot Worth a Million,” “The Perfect Specimen”

World of Archie (Jumbo Comics) Double Digest is part of “The Archie Digest Library” series.  Debuting in late 2010, World of Archie Double Digest is a mini-trade paperback-like series that features stories reprinted from across the publishing history of Archie Comics.  Sometimes, however, these digests offer original stories.

World of Archie (Jumbo Comics) Double Digest #132 reintroduces three characters from the “Golden Age” of Archie Comics (when it was known as M.L.J. Magazines, Inc.).  These characters return in two new stories.

The first new story is “One Shot Worth a Million.”  It is written by Ian Flynn; drawn by Holly G! (pencils) and Jim Amash (inks); colored by Glenn Whitmore; and lettered by the great Jack Morelli.  It introduces modern versions of two characters.

The first is “Fran Frazer,” who first appeared in MLJ'S Top Notch Comics #9 (cover dated: October 1940).  She was one of those female “roving-reporters” characters, and she roamed the world as a photo journalist.  She had a miniature camera, which she disguised as various fashion accessories, and Fran used it to collect evidence against the wicked and the corrupt.  Fran was usually accompanied by the second reintroduced character, Hal Davis.  The modernized Fran Frazer is a freelance photographer and journalist for “Strife Media.”  The modernized Hal Davis is her romantic rival and is also now an African-American character.

Fran Frazer in “One Shot Worth a Million”:
Why is Archie Andrews skulking around the docks in the dead of night?  Veronica Lodge wants to know.  Well, Archie is assisting freelance photographer and journalist, Fran Frazer, in her investigation of criminal syndicate activity at the docks.  And it involves Lodge Industry, which Veronica's father, Hiram Lodge, owns.

By the way, why is Veronica skulking around the docks?  Well, she is assisting Hal Davis, Fran's (romantic) rival.  Can Archie and Veronica stop bickering in time to help Fran and Hal unmask corruption at the docks?

The second new story is “The Perfect Specimen.”  It is written by Daniel Kibblesmith; drawn by Steven Butler (pencils) and Lily Butler (inks); colored by Glenn Whitmore; and lettered by the great Jack Morelli.

The story reintroduces “Young Dr. Masters,” a physician who engages in dangerous adventures and misadventures to help patients.  The character had his own comic book, The Adventures of Young Dr. Masters, which ran for two issues (cover dated: August and November 1964).  The series was apparently an adaptation of the 1962 novel, Young Doctor Masters (Belmont Books), written by Frank Haskell.  That Frank Haskell is not to be confused with Frank A. Haskell (1828-1864), the author and Union Army officer who served during the American Civil War.  The modernized Dr. Masters is a television doctor and author.

Young Dr. Masters in “The Perfect Specimen”:
During his television show, Dr. Masters announces that he is about to embark on a six-city book tour for his upcoming book, “The Perfect Specimen! Health, Beauty, and You!”  The tour will kick off in Riverdale, where Masters hopes to find the one “local teen” who “truly embodies the spirit of health and beauty.”  That person would be the “perfect specimen” to appear on the book cover and to accompany Dr. Masters on his book tour.

Betty and Veronica each believes that she is the “perfect specimen.”  Thus, begins their latest battle of the beauties, but can these two friends and rivals survive a health and beauty war of attrition?

THE LOWDOWN:  For many years now, Archie's marketing department has been sending PDF copies of some of their titles for review.  World of Archie (Jumbo Comics) Double Digest #132 is the latest.

“One Shot Worth a Million” and the “The Perfect Specimen” exemplify how Archie Comics has perfected the six-page humor story over the last several years.  Archie Comics has always been good at humor short stories and stand-alone tales, as they've been doing it for decades.  However, these new, tight, six-page tales that pepper Archie digests and single-issue anniversary specials are concise in their delivery of a beginning, middle, and end with a substantial plot.  But there is a problem...

Often, I come across six-page stories that would be better served by being at least twice their length.  That is the case with both these stories, but especially with “One Shot Worth a Million.”  Writer Ian Flynn mixes espionage, teen humor, and comic romance with flair in this story, a hybrid with potential that demands to expanded into a longer story.  The art team of Holly G! (pencils) and Jim Amash (inks) certainly have the storytelling chops to keep the humor and comic action humming along for longer than six pages.  Alas, it was not to be.

The rest of World of Archie Double Digest #132 is a mixture of winter-themed tales and high school hijinks, which Archie fans will always welcome.  I should warn you, dear readers.  I will always recommend classic-style Archie Comics.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of classic-style Archie Comics will want World of Archie Double Digest.

B+

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"


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