Saturday, July 31, 2010

Comics Review: ARCHIE AS PUREHEART THE POWERFUL, VOLUME 1 (IDW Publishing/Archie Comics, 2010)

Scratch one nosy feline! I'm not an ARCHIE reader but broke down and bought this grab-baggy compilation of thirteen stories from that giddy era when Archie and his pals joined the cape-and-cowl crowd. To give writer Frank Doyle and artist Bob White their due, they anticipated the tidal wave of "high camp" by a couple of months: Archie made his debut as Captain Pureheart the Powerful in LIFE WITH ARCHIE #42 (October 1965), while the Batman TV series premiered in January of '66. Doyle and White evidently conceived the Pureheart gig as a lark; they didn't even bother to give Pureheart an origin story but instead tossed him, carrot-topped casaba first, into a battle with The Ice Cube, a villain made out of... you guessed it. Four issues later, "The PH Factor" belatedly explained that Archie got his powers by concentrating really, really hard to channel his inner goodness. Jughead, Reggie, and the rest followed "super-suit," and the craze even birthed a title of its own, which lasted six issues under two different names. By contrast, SUPER RICHIE, the titular vehicle for another "normal" character (Richie Rich) who turned "heroic" during the mid-60s just for kicks, lasted three times as long, despite debuting a decade after the death of "camp." I'd have to rate SUPER RICHIE as the more successful concept, wouldn't you?

White packs plenty of energy and good spirits into his PUREHEART scripts, but, frankly, there's more imagination on display in even a mediocre episode of Darkwing Duck. Perhaps symbolically, the most enjoyable moments occur when Pureheart and his rival Evilheart (Reggie) are vying for attention (particularly that dispensed by Betty and Veronica). Imagine Darkwing and Negaduck cast as Gizmoduck and you've pretty much got the idea. One collection of PUREHEART stories is enough for me, though.

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