After months of hype and anticipation, the high profile Archie meets KISS begins here. Can the opening salvo be yet another home run for this underrated publisher, or does the first impression leave something to be desired?
Credits & Solicit Info:
(W) Alex Segura (A/CA) Dan Parent
'Archie Meets KISS Part 1: Riverdale Rock City.' The biggest band in rock history invades Riverdale! When the Archies find their town overrun by monsters because of a spell gone wrong, can the KISS gang save the day? Find out in part one of this four-part epic featuring KISS! Features a regular cover by Dan Parent and a variant cover by Francesco Francavilla
For those of you who are old enough to remember the early days of KISS, the fact that this comic has happened is probably something that you never thought you would ever see. As for those of you not old enough to remember, there was a time where these two entities were diametric opposites of American culture. Back then, Archie would've been perceived as a symbol of wholesome "safe" entertainment and KISS was easily one of the most popular symbols of counter-culture during its debut decade. However, when you do the research and take a look at recent history, such a crossover is not as surprising as you might think.
As I was putting together my outline for this review, one of the things that I discovered is that KISS's history in the comic book medium goes back quite a ways. Beginning in 1977 with a guest appearance in the twelfth Issue of Howard the Duck, KISS went on to be a part of two Marvel Magazines, two ongoing series from two different imprints (Image and Dark Horse) that lasted a combined 44 Issues and an even has their own imprint (KISS Comics Group) meant to publish all future comics. As for Archie, its publisher has spent the past two years slowly changing its general perception. Led by the critically acclaimed Life with Archie: The Married Life series, the imprint has been getting its share of props for refreshing changes to the formula, the handling of controversial characters and the revitalization of its video game comic line. With all this positive momentum, a crossover with a headline grabber like KISS makes all the sense in the world. Can Archie #627 become yet another home run for Archie and his pals in creative? Unfortunately, I think they may have struck out.
As far as story goes, Archie meeting KISS has at least a solid foundation. The plot boils down to Sabrina (The Teenage Witch) employing the services of the Riverdale Monster Society to assist her in reinforcing the Protection Barrier that'll help keep monsters away during the Halloween season. However, one of the non-participating members feels slighted enough to take matters into her own hands, interfering with the spell at just the wrong time, opening up a portal that results in the prerequisite mayhem. Even if it may feel shallow, the story does past every plausibility test for the Archie universe, and with Sabrina being involved it does promise that the potential for guest appearances from the lower-profile fan favorites in said universe. Unfortunately, the writing itself is where the issues begin.
As I first sat down and read Archie #627, one of the things that occurred to me is that stories of all kinds can be driven by plot or character. From the minute one begins the read the first part of this crossover, it becomes apparent that this book was meant to be driven by plot instead of character. Such a focus isn't inherently bad, but it increases the potential exposure of flaws in the craft. Such flaws are present here in spades. The biggest problem I had with this issue is the fact that the feature characters characteristics are stripped down in such a way that the majority of them serve an extremely shallow purpose. Veronica is there to screw things up and Reggie is there to serve as a foil to her and a lackey to Jughead. Speaking of Jughead, his lines are almost exclusively sarcastic put-downs or reactions to events. Betty and Dilton are pretty much useless, and Archie and Sabrina are there because the book shares its name with the former and the latter is essential to the construction of the plot. Even if you replaced the useless characters with other ones it still wouldn't fix the inherit flaws of a script that's held together with shoe string dialogue, which in turn makes the book feel more decompressed and therefore much harder to read than it's supposed to. A complete disappointment all around considering the current strength of the work that shares a similar profile of notoriety with this crossover.
If nothing else, the thing you can expect from Archie's signature art is a clean, colorful style that's easy on the eyes and does its job as a sequential storytelling tool. Being the highest profile book of the season for the imprint, Archie #627 doesn't take any real risks in its art style and draws the characters in a way that one would expect (I had forgotten how appealing to the eye Sabrina is when drawn in the old school style). Facial expressions are also mostly on point, as they convey the proper emotions and help to enhance the script. The one significant complaint I do have is how Jughead's facial expressions come across in this book. While it is in character for him to be sarcastic and trade barbs with Veronica and Reggie, it's not in character for him to look snide and cruel. This played a part in throwing me off on the story. Still, despite that glitch, Parent and Koslowski deserve props for making the book visually appealing.
My Final 22 Cents:
When this book was first announced, I didn't really pay attention to it simply because it felt like a book that was mainly created to draw the general public. What got me to pay attention was the fact that I've been enjoying more of this imprint's output then ever before, giving me massive goodwill for the book. Add that to the fact that the people at the Archie Panel were generally enthusiastic about this work, I decided to give this a shot. Unfortunately, the reality of being an enthusiast in any entertainment medium is the fact that you will run into things that do disappoint you and Archie meets KISS does just that. While this doesn't affect my overall feelings on the imprint, it does make me averse to reading the rest of the crossover. As a wise person once said, you can't win them all.
Review by: Linwood Ear Knight