For a while now, Archie Comics have been absolutely killing it with the reinvention of their venerable line of teen high-jink comics. Of course, the adventures of Archie Andrews and his gang have been comic-book gateway drugs for generations of readers, along with the Sunday funnies, Asterix and Tintin. And for decades, the Riverdale gang has been as dated as those others remain. But the recent realignment and reboot of Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica has breathed new and incredibly enjoyable life into a comic book classic. The Big Moose One-Shot sees the lumbering and deceptively simple galoot known as Moose take center stage in a collection of stories that bring light-hearted fun, as well as heartfelt introspection and surprising depth, to Riverdale’s resonant big lunk.
The One-Shot is made up of three tales, an anthology approach familiar to anyone who grew up reading Archie Double-Digests. Each story is handled by a different creative team with their own approach to Marmaduke “Moose” Mason that manages to highlight a different aspect of his personality even as they depict a coherent and recognizably similar character.
The first story, “Moose vs. the Vending Machine”, is written by Sean Ryan, with art by Cory Smith and colors by Matt Herms. The story centres around Moose’s battle with his most implacable foe, namely his insatiable appetite. Dying of hunger as school lets out, he finds himself short on both snacks and cash. Which forces him to make a deal with the similarly voracious Jughead Jones to obtain a dollar and finally wrest a luscious morsel from the school vending machine. Of all the stories in the one-shot, this is the most similar in tone and style to the classic light-hearted, gag-filled yuks of the classic Archie comics. This isn’t to say that this story feels dated or old-fashioned at all. It’s most definitely a contemporary story with a modern approach. What it does to great effect is to craft a story that feels both of today in its style but also evoke the strengths of the classic Archie short stories that specialized in a strong and simple premise that seemed life or death important to its teenaged protagonists, but remains a light-hearted gag through and through. To that end, Ryan and Smith score, pushing all the nostalgia buttons without coming off as a pastiche. That’s a tough needle to thread.
The second story is even better. “Have it All” is written by Ryan Cady with art by Thomas Pitilli and colors by Glenn Whitmore. Their story is more introspective, more an attempt to define Moose as a richer, deeper character for modern audiences. The story is basically a week in the life of Moose, as he struggles to meet all his obligations; to his grades, his family, his girlfriend and his team. Moose is never not the simple guy, probably not the brightest bulb, so in that sense the creative team doesn’t redefine him too far away from the link we’ve always known and loved. But they do add a streak of responsibility, of a sense of obligation duty. This makes him a good guy, one that’s easy to get behind, but it also gives him more on his shoulders. And in this way, the team reminds us that everyone in adolescence, from the all-star jock to the straight-A student, to the rich girl to the outsider, all of them are struggling to make their lives work and just get through it. The story is the heart of the book, and from Cady’s heartfelt but nimble script to Pitilli’s realistic approach to art, the piece winds up being surprisingly rich and enjoyable.
The final story, “The Big Difference”, written by Gorf with art by Ryan Sample and colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick, is probably the least effective of the three, which isn’t to say it isn’t pleasant enough. It does have a nice message about honesty and being upfront, and it makes the most of its short page count to tell a sweet story. The art is probably the most cartoonish of the book, but I really liked it, and the exaggerated elements served to accentuate the fun of the story rather than detract from the stakes, as a more heightened style can occasionally do. I don’t talk about letterers too much, which is an oversight on my part. Jack Morelli is on letters for each of the stories, which helps to give the book a continuity of feeling, particularly in how he approaches the sound effects in the book, which is a charmingly blunt and overt way.
All in all, The Big Moose One-Shot is another feather in the cap of the revitalized line from Archie Comics. The vitality their new approach has given to the line, as evidenced by the talent on display in this book, should ensure that the publisher holds onto its crown as the all-time champ of light-hearted teen high-jinks and romance in comics. If only I saw this book at the checkout of the local grocery store, maybe more eight to eleven year olds would harass their moms for it like I would have at their age. 9/10
The Big Moose One-Shot will be released April 26, 2017.