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review 2020-02-22 19:42
Kevin Keller: Drive Me Crazy (graphic novel) by Dan Parent, pencils by Dan Parent and Bill Galvan
Kevin Keller Vol #2: Drive Me Crazy - Dan Parent

Kevin Keller: Drive Me Crazy is very episodic. In the first chapter, each of the characters has to present a report on an inspirational figure, and Kevin chooses George Takei. Takei finds out about his report and decides to pay Riverdale High a visit. In the second chapter, Kevin has some car problems that complicate a date at the drive-in movie theater. In the third chapter, Kevin is now dating his first ever boyfriend, Devon, but there's just one problem: Devon isn't out yet. In the fourth chapter, Kevin's secret admirer is back (his first appearance was in a previous volume I haven't read), and both he and Kevin are starring in Veronica's musical. Devon, meanwhile, struggles with jealousy.

This is apparently the second (?) Kevin Keller volume - I thought about getting the previous one through ILL first but instead decided to just jump in.

This read much more like the original Archie comics than the Archie and Jughead reboots did, despite being more in-your-face about its progressive aspects. I found the art style to be a bit creepy, with everyone smiling 90% of the time, the dialogue was stiff and not particularly well written, and the stories beat readers over the head with their messages.

Kevin Keller is the first openly gay character in the Archie Comics universe, and it's great that he exists. It's also nice that he's not the sole gay person in Riverdale, although he seems to be the only gay guy that anyone is dating. In this one volume, Kevin goes on dates with three different guys and meets a fourth guy who was his secret admirer in a past volume. I was somewhat confused when Kevin said that Devon was his first boyfriend ever, since I'd thought Todd (in Chapter 2) was Kevin's boyfriend, and it seemed like Brian (in Chapter 1) might have been a past boyfriend of Kevin's.

It was great that Kevin got a few stories that weren't solely focused on him being gay - his car borrowing troubles and date at the drive-in were a nice examples of this. Unfortunately, there were times when I felt like Kevin was more of a big gay after school special. The end of the George Takei chapter and the "oh no, my boyfriend is in the closet" chapters were particularly glaring examples. The George Takei stuff was corny, but the stuff in Chapter 3, with Devon, struck me as being potentially painful for some readers.

Kevin began dating Devon knowing that Devon was still in the closet because his parents were homophobic and wouldn't support him the way Kevin's parents did. However, Kevin hadn't even arrived at their first date before he started to have problems with their relationship. He hated that he had to drive out of his way to meet Devon and that they had to be secretive. When kids at school started to find out, Devon said some hurtful (and extremely dated - "I'm not fruity or light in the loafers, as they say!") things to try to reestablish himself as definitely not gay. (Okay, seriously, I had to google "light in the loafers." Does anyone who is not in their 70s even use that phrase anymore?)

Things between Kevin and Devon devolved to the point where Kevin said he couldn't date anyone who was still in the closet. And yeah, he has the right to decide what's best for himself when it comes to relationships, but I disliked that the "happy" resolution to their relationship woes involved

Devon coming out and becoming homeless after his parents kicked him out. Veronica gave him a place to stay, but still.

(spoiler show)


Oh, and one thing I noticed: although I'm pretty sure that even the original Archie comics allowed its characters to kiss on-page, the most Kevin did with anyone was hold hands or hug. After a bit of googling, I discovered that Kevin does get an on-page kiss later on in the series, so that's good. If two heterosexual characters can kiss on-page and still be considered sickeningly wholesome, two gay characters should be able to do the same. Although, from what I've read, Kevin's kiss results in him having to deal with a homophobic stranger's complaints.

I don't intend to read more of this series, although I do have a Kevin Keller novel in my collection that I plan on reading eventually.

Extras:

Six pages of full-color illustrations of Kevin, Betty, and Veronica acting as fashion models.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2020-02-22 16:38
Archie (graphic novel, vol. 1) by Mark Waid, art by Fiona Staples, Annie Wu, Veronica Fish
Archie, Vol. 1 - Mark Waid,Veronica Fish,Annie Wu,Fiona Staples

Archie and Betty seemed like the perfect couple...until they broke up over "the lipstick incident." What's the lipstick incident? They refuse to say. Their friends try to get them to make up and get back together, but nothing seems to work. And now Veronica, a beautiful heiress, has moved into town, and Archie seems to be wrapped around her finger.

This was an impulse purchase. I have absolutely no nostalgic feelings for the original Archie comics. Neither their art style nor their humor worked for me. But then I tried and enjoyed the Jughead reboot. When I spotted the first volume of the Archie reboot while book shopping, I figured "hey, why not?"

The first three issues worked best for me. Fiona Staples' artwork was great - there was a nice energy to it, and the characters' facial expressions were fabulous. One of my top favorite panels is the one where Archie got a job at an ice cream shop and somehow managed to set all the ice cream on fire.

I was really curious about the lipstick incident and actually managed to guess what had happened before it was revealed. The full story was...a little disappointing. And didn't quite gel with something that happened earlier in the volume. There was a part where Betty got ready for a party that should have been a painful reminder of the lipstick incident and yet somehow wasn't.

I liked Annie Wu's art well enough, although not as much as Fiona Staples', but Veronica Fish's art didn't appeal to me at all. I also didn't enjoy those portions of the story as much. Whereas the first part of the volume was focused on characters' efforts to get Betty and Archie back together and maybe find out what the lipstick incident was, the second half of the volume was more about getting between Veronica and Archie. And there was an interrupted centipede joke that definitely didn't live up to its build-up.

I liked that Veronica wasn't 100% awful. Okay, so she was horribly spoiled and stuck up, but she wasn't malicious, and there were times when she was genuinely nice. Reggie Mantle was more of a true villain than her. I just wasn't as interested in the efforts to break her and Archie up (although, were they really dating? it was more like he was being blackmailed...) as I was in the efforts to herd Archie and Betty back towards each other and hopefully talk through their problems.

Overall, I enjoyed this, although I'm not sure yet whether I'll be continuing on with it.

Extras:

An introduction by Fiona Staples, a cover art gallery (four pages of teenie tiny covers), a 2-page "how this comic was made" feature, an afterword by Mark Waid, and a 20-page preview of the Jughead reboot.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2019-10-22 01:31
Devil in the Darkness by Archie Roy
Devil In The Darkness - Archie Roy

A sudden snowstorm in the Scottish Highlands strands a newly married couple in a crumbling Victorian mansion known as Ardvreck House, along with a team of paranormal investigators and demolition experts already there, seeking proof that the mansion is haunted before the old pile is reduced to rubble.
Archie Roy, a noted astronomer and physical researcher, brings a sane, scientific approach to the haunted house genre, without losing an ounce of atmosphere or dread. And avoiding the cocksure, self serving/self promoting nonsense that oozes from such 'paranormal investigators' as the Warrens. The suspense steadily mounts without being bogged down by the dry tone scientific writing has been known to be plagued with.

Originally published in 1978 and brought to America for the first time by Valancourt Books (Where do they find these wonderful lost gems?)

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review 2019-06-14 23:06
A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns - Archie Bongiovanni,Tristan Jimerson

For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

I loved this handy little guide. Simple, easy, and to the point. It covers various topics such as how to ask someone what pronouns they use, how to use gender neutral language in everyday life, and how to address situations in which someone uses an incorrect pronoun (in reference to you or others). 

One of the things I really liked about this book was the explanation of how someone may feel when they are misgendered. It is very simple, but so meaningful. Gender neutral language is a new way of thinking for many people, but reading from someone first hand about how a person who is misgendered feels should motivate anyone to at least try to use the correct pronouns.

I also really liked the level of understanding represented when people accidentally mess up. The book doesn't come off as demanding or antagonistic (except toward people who purposely misgender someone, which, let's be honest, makes that person a jerk and such antagonism in response is pretty warranted). The overall message is to do your best to use correct pronouns, correct yourself when you catch yourself making a mistake, and don't be offended when someone points out that you used the incorrect pronoun. 

This is all around a great book. A nice way to address the topic from a gender-neutral and a cisgender point of view. Wonderful read and a great way to get people to really think about the language they use.

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review 2019-05-09 00:00
Essential Punisher, Vol. 1
Essential Punisher, Vol. 1 - Gerry Conway,Archie Goodwin,Ross Andru,Frank Miller,Steven Grant,Bill Mantlo,Len Wein,Greg LaRocque,Keith Pollard The Punisher first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man # 129 (Feb 1974) and was created by Gerry Conway and John Romita, Sr., who was the art director at Marvel then, though Ross Andru drew the actual comic and Stan Lee believes he came up with the name. The Punisher is a ruthless vigilante who acts as judge, jury and executioner and kills bad guys with impunity. This kind of anti-hero was unknown to comics of the Silver Age but I suppose they eventually had to emulate the movies where films like ‘Dirty Harry’ (1971) popularised a tougher approach to criminality.

In his first appearance, the Punisher is out to kill Spider-Man as part of his fight against crime, convinced by the Jackal that Spidey murdered Norman Osborn. Having proved popular, he came back in The Amazing Spider-Man # 134-135 to fight with the eponymous hero eventually against Tarantula, a spikey-shoed refugee from some dodgy South American dictatorship. He next appeared in Giant-Sized Spider-Man # 4 and finally had a couple of solo shots in Marvel Preview # 2 and Marvel Super-Action # 1. These were both black and white titles, the latter a one shot. The Punisher was not yet popular enough to succeed in a mainstream comic and so resumed guest appearances in other Marvel titles, notably Daredevil # 182-184, an excellent story from the Frank Miller era of that title. Most often, though, he appeared in the various ‘Spider-Man’ comic books of the era where the contrast between his ruthless methods and Peter Parker’s less self-righteous approach to crime fighting worked well. Actually, the Punisher was not so murderous as he later became, often using mercy bullets which don’t kill on the lesser hoodlums.

The 1980s saw the coming of the mini-series to the comic book industry and this gave an opportunity for longer stories about characters who might not carry off an on-going comic book. The Punisher was ideal for this kind of thing, so writer Steven Grant and artist Mike Zeck teamed up to do a complicated five-part story in which our hero ‘kills’ the Kingpin and unleashes a gang war as everyone else tries to take the large man’s place as top crime lord. Grant’s script is great and Zeck’s art is excellent. Part five is scripted by Jo Duffy and drawn by Mike Vosburg and John Beatty, who do a perfectly fine job.

As extreme violence and a more hard-nosed crime-fighting approach took hold in the 80s, the Punisher became more popular. There are three films about him!

This is an entertaining collection of early stories which showcases a wide variety of talent. The only drawback, from a reader’s point of view, is that you are left wanting to carry on reading ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Daredevil’ to find out what happens next to them. From a publisher’s point of view, this is wonderful and, indeed, the whole point of crossovers. Happily, the various ‘Essential Spider-Man’ collections are up to date with what’s shown here. The ‘Essential Daredevils’ are still a few years short of the great Frank Miller years, so you’ll have to wait for them. On the other hand, there are, to date, four volumes of ‘Essential Punisher’ into which your teeth, bullets, hand grenades or machetes can now be sunk. Enjoy!

Eamonn Murphy
This review first appeared at https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/
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