This weekend, I’ve read two Archie trade paperbacks in their “Archie & Friends All Stars” series, “Veronica’s Passport” (volume 1 of the series) and “Archie’s Haunted House” (volume 5 of the series). The former is a compilation of stories from a storyline where in each issue, Veronica visits different countries, explores their customs, and has various adventures. The latter is a compilation of several Halloween-type tales.
This paperback collects four stories, one for each location Veronica visits: New York City; Paris; Rome; and Bombay, India (as a footnote added onto the last story helpfully reminds us, “Bombay is now Mumbai”).
The New York story focuses on Veronica and her older Manhattan-dwelling cousin she’s staying with exploring the sights of New York, including the obligatory shopping trips. Veronica also gets involved in New York’s modern art scene. Nice to see Veronica enjoying herself in the Big Apple. Interestingly enough, more recent stories seem to show Riverdale as somewhere within driving distance of New York (the wedding storyline and “Life With Archie” series seems to imply it’s the closest big city).
The next story puts more emphasis on action (at the risk of making Veronica a bit of a damsel-in-distress in parts), as Ronnie visits Paris with her parents. There, she’s swept off her feet by a Parisian youth, and also deals with a jewel thief. A fun story, though the Pepe le Pew-style French “dialect” sometimes clashes with the educational tidbits.
The Rome story shows Veronica sent by her father to an awful boarding school in Rome, where she has a miserable time. The resolution relies in part on her father’s wealthy and powerful status. This one’s in my opinion the weakest of the stories.
The final tale, set in India, sees the Lodges deal with more thievery (criminal trying to steal a 5.25″ floppy disk full of valuable information for a business deal of Hiram Lodge’s), plus explore some of India’s culture.
Yes, I mentioned the 5.25″ floppy disk and Mumbai/Bombay footnotes for a reason. The stories were written in the late 80s and early 90s, and the art clearly reflects such—the gaudy clothes and hairstyle Veronica’s wearing in the Paris story, as well as the oh-so-stylish mullet her Parisian beau sports. There’s also a Bart Simpson and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles joke in the Rome story. Given I was about the same age as Veronica at the time these stories were written, funny bit of nostalgia in being reminded how tacky wardrobes were back then (as my old high school photos can attest).
Archie’s Haunted House
A mix of stories appear in this paperback, all with a general Halloween/haunted-house theme.
The first story sees the gang buying Halloween costumes from a new costume shop in town. Unfortunately, it turns out the costumes are all enchanted by the shop’s owner, forcing the day to be saved by, of all people, Dilton. One would expect science-and-logic-minded Dilton to be the most skeptical of magic, but apparently he’s not here. The high points are seeing how the gang behaves as monsters… which to the shop owner’s dismay is pretty much like their normal behavior (Chuck as a mummy appears, still one-track-minded about comics to girlfriend Nancy’s annoyance).
The longest story is the second one, which sees the gang trying to save a condemned old house, thinking it has historical value. Unfortunately, it turns out to actually be haunted. Sabrina makes her only appearance in the paperback in this story, and just as a few cameos. Her aunts also appear, but as this story was published in the mid-90s (just before the ABC sitcom’s debut), they’re drawn in their older traditional-witch-appearance versions (though Zelda looks a bit off-model), and are depicted as living in “Gravedale Heights” (the name of a series of Sabrina stories in the early 90s). Since the early 2000s, Sabrina’s town in the comics has been named “Greendale” (the name her town was given in the animated series of the late 90s/early 2000s about her pre-teen years).
The third story (which looks like it was reprinted from the recently-canceled “Betty & Veronica Spectacular” comic) has Betty and Ronnie decide to hold a “girls’ night in” for Halloween. The boys at first try to prank the girls, but quickly decide to try to “rescue” them after thinking they’re under danger from an axe-wielding criminal.
The final story is reprinted from a digest from a few years ago. Jughead and Archie, dressed as vampires for Halloween, accidentally wind up at a party for *real* monsters; hilarity ensues.
The paperback also contains a few Halloween festivities tips (creating invitations, spooky-themed decorations and food, etc.).