One is the serious, long-running character drama series which set the standard for alternative titles. The other is the comedic comic book which gave rise to the misadventures of a love-struck teen many, many years ago. One is iconic for breaking the mold and is full of adult situations and profanity, the other is iconic as a goofy piece of innocent pop culture Americana. Who will win Free Comic Book Day 2016?
Love And Rockets:
Enter the worlds created by Los Bros. Hernandez. First is Jaime’s story “Maggie”, set in Hoppers, California. Maggie has a problem: she’s lonely, depressed, and life just sucks. She could sit down and re-read her old comic books, or even get some new ones, but really at the end of the day she just wants to be loved. Hopey’s busy though, and her only companion is Frogmouth, the top-heavy motormouth who seems to cause trouble everywhere she goes.
Gilbert’s tale is “And then reality kicks in”, where aging B-movie star Fritz discusses life in general and the notion of creativity. It’s a slow-burn tale and on the surface it isn’t as engaging as the first, but it’s also very real and touching.
The short back-up strips are decent too, the real gem being “Are The Kids All Right?” It’s an intelligent debate concerning disposable pop culture in the modern world versus old-fashioned, long-lasting knowledge. It’s a philosophical discussion which will only appeal to those who understand the point being made – and the punchline to it proves to be one of the funniest jokes in comic history. Love And Rockets is returning to comic book shelves once more, and this proves it’s still got what it takes to make an impact.
Meet Archie Andrews, an incredibly mild-mannered student at Riverdale High. You may know him from countless digests and comic books from years past (as well as some rather pointed discussions in Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy). Once again Archie has a problem, and once again it’s all to do with a girl. You may remember Betty too, the girl-next-door and the one he’s seemingly destined to be with forever. Only they’ve broken up, and the focus of the school is on just why this power-couple split apart and how everyone should try to get them back together again.
Enter Jughead Jones, Archie’s best friend and cynical-minded gourmand. He has the power to help Archie and Betty get back together again, but claims he needs some crazy-glue to make that happen. The outcome, however, is nothing like you could imagine.
The first back-up story of Jughead forces him to re-evaluate the concept of social awareness as he logically argues the futility of Betty’s protest against land development, yet is forced to act when the school cafeteria stops serving his favourite dinners. The second is a somewhat throwaway parody of Game of Thrones, although it scores for some wry observations and anachronistic humour regarding the feudal system.
These may all sound like standard Archie fare, but if you haven’t been keeping up with the comics lately then you’ll have missed out on the serious transformation this series have gone through. The art is as solid as that in any other comic book (say bye-bye, cartoon-style) and the writing by Mark Waid – writer of Kingdom Come, The Flash and countless other titles – is some of his best work ever as he perfectly captures the teenage microcosm of school life, without sacrificing the spirit of what the characters were all about. As for Jughead, the character is presented better than ever as a quirky, intelligent slacker whose logic and understanding of reality are both dark and playful.
So who wins? It’s hard to call Love And Rockets anything but groundbreaking, and it’s always impressive. It’s also not for kids, and it was surprising there was no parental advisory warning or mature readers only label on it. It’s one of those dramas that you either love or hate, and so it may not be for everyone.
However, Archie was the clear winner of the two. It was exactly what was needed this Free Comic Book Day, and the perfect introduction to the new series. In fact, this may be going out on a limb but pound for pound it was probably the best comic book on offer this year. It delivered a perfect slice of drama which was instantly accessible for new and old readers, and provided something for just about everyone.