This issue of Archie & Friends Double Digest begins with a new story by Frank Doyle, focusing on a superhero theme. The story titled, “Chaos in a Common Cane” opens with evildoer The Dude electrifying Pureheart, Archie’s superhero alter-ego, with his trick cane as Evilheart, Reggie Mantle’s anti-hero alter-ego, stands-by heckling the redheaded hero. As the two-part story continues, readers see Evilheart double-cross Pureheart, only to triple-cross The Dude all in hopes of gaining the fame of capturing The Dude while stealing the thunder from Pureheart.
Though advertised as a Pureheart and Pals story on the cover, “Chaos in a Common Cane” focuses only on Pureheart and Evilheart. This is a letdown as it would have been exciting to see the rest of the gang’s alter-egos, but since when does a comic’s cover represent what’s beneath?
The story is broken into two parts, which would be interesting if the second part was placed deeper in the digest, however it directly follows the first. Making it strange that they would feel the need to divide the story up at all, especially considering the story is only 13 pages in total.
Doyle’s script is similar to that of a silver-age superhero comic, with campy dialogue, editor notes and a deus ex machina solution to defeating The Dude. It’s a fun and easy read, and Doyle’s attempt to drop the reader right into an action scene is not unnoticed, but does lead to some confusion. The reason The Dude is any sort of threat isn’t really addressed until it’s briefly hinted that he stole some rich people’s jewelry halfway through the first part.
Bill Vigoda’s pencils also reflect the old-school comic feel, with the characters design reflecting that of vintage Archie comics. In one particular panel there is a woman who greatly resembles Veronica’s design from the 1940s, which is a cool Easter Egg for Archie fans. The Dude’s character design is similar to that of Dastardly Whiplash, the villain from the old Dudley Do Right cartoons, which is fun in the comic-booky way that all Archie Comics are fun.
The art style of Vigoda’s pencils work in tangent with the campiness of the story, and is something cleaner Archie artists like Fernando Ruiz, Dan Parent, or Dan DeCarlo may not have been able to do with the same charm.
Vigoda’s panels are also exciting, with detailed backgrounds in nearly every panel. The explosive splash page really pops-out thanks to Sal Contrera’s excellent coloring job. Staying with the retro feel, Contrera uses flat colors with dark inks and lining for shadows. Together, Contrera and Vigoda’s art work is very reminiscent to the silver age art of superhero comic books and works well with Doyle’s script.
The rest of the digest is full of various older Archie stories, though mostly seem to deal with the similar theme of “Reggie Mantle is the obnoxious jerk who gets his just deserts.” However, there’s is a cute story midway through the digest called “Don’t Quote Me” that tells the story of Archie and Jughead desperately looking up “Chick Quotes” for a last-minute class assignment and Archie misusing quotes in an attempt hit on Veronica. Needlessly to say, the misuse of Conrad and Emerson had my inner English major in giggles.
Though “Chaos in a Common Cane” doesn’t quite deliver the punch it may have promised as a Pureheart story, it’s still an amusing Archie tale to flip through before segueing into a plethora of adventures from Riverdale.