What first attracted me to this delightful “what if?” excursion into Archie land was the stunning EC era Wally Wood like cover, courtesy of artist Andrew Pepoy. Complete with faux creases, edge tears, and paper browning it adds proudly to the many homage covers that have preceded it; a long standing comics tradition that I have always enjoyed.
But while the exterior may have been the selling point, what lies within more than justifies the $2.99 (Good lord, choke!) cover price. “A Really Hot Date!” capably drawn by the team of pencil artist Gisele (no last names, please) and inked by Archie regular Rich Koslowski takes us back to the future; a Martian civilization of many years ago, populated by our favorite Riverdale Denizens whose culture, far advanced of our own, faces climate induced extinction. Enter one Archie Andromeda-well meaning, charming, but perpetually messing things up (sound like someone you know?)-whose rivalry with Reggie causes him to impulsively enter the Interplanetary Science Fair. Aided by his friend and science geek Dilton, Archie tries to come up with a way to reverse the trend of an ever heating Martian atmosphere. Lucky for us Earthlings we have no such concerns, right?
Of course it all goes wrong in the usual and somewhat predictable Archie fashion. But that predictability is a huge part of the Archie Comics appeal. There is a certain formula, one that has served the company well for more than sixty years, that while often tweaked is never ignored. Why mess with success?
What makes this issue so much fun is the ways in which writer Angelo Decesare places the regulars into an alien setting, but allows them to stay completely in character. Archie is Archie, Jughead is Jughead, and the eternal question of “Betty or Veronica?” is never resolved. Would we really want it any other way?
The venerable Archie line continues to publish some of the most entertaining and thought provoking titles today. Between the pages of what superficially look like “kids comics” are stories that sensitively and intelligently address such concerns as race, sexual orientation, climate change, and bullying. For those who tire of a steady diet of superheroes Archie Comics, as exemplified by Archie Science-Fantasy 646, might just be the ideal alternative. Now to track down the first 645 issues!