As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, there is an Archie comic for any and every occasion, and Halloween is certainly no exception. While the Archie Horror imprint provides us with horror year round with the excellent Afterlife With Archie series and the gorgeous, terrifying New Adventures of Sabrina, nothing beats a classic Archie collection featuring comedic hijinks–past and present–of America’s Favorite Teenager and his pals. The jam-packed Betty & Veronica Halloween Annual Double Digest (which happens to be #237; just for you, fans of Kubrick’s The Shining) is what fans would normally expect from an Archie digest, with a little dash of festive Halloween fun mixed in with the misadventures of your favorite faces from Riverdale High: Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge! (Oh yeah, and Jughead, Reggie, Moose, Midge, and uh, that one redheaded guy.)
The issue’s main event is the opening two-part Dan Parent comedy chiller “Lodge of Terror,” involving a reportedly haunted ski lodge on ominously-named Mount Killingsley, which is of course the scene of a Halloween party thrown by Veronica. Would I attend a haunted Halloween party on something called Mount Killingsley? HELL naw. Still, Parent’s Scooby-Doo type scenes and orange, black and slime-green backgrounds set a fun and festive precedent for the forthcoming pages. But while there are a few more Halloween-themed stories to come, the issue at times reads like a standard-issue Archie double digest, though several stories could probably just barely make the cut as Halloween fodder due to a minor fantasy element (“The Flapper,” in which Betty dreams of a Great Gatsby-esque existence for herself and Archie; the anthropomorphic daydreams of “Teen Morphs” in which Betty and Veronica envision themselves with the power to become different animals at will). What saves the issue from its lack of holiday content is a big block of Sabrina; everyone’s favorite teenage witch is featured in not one but four stories, the best being “Witch Switch,” which finds the young sorceress casting a personality- altering love spell on an arrogant warlock with whom Aunts Hilda & Zelda have hooked her up on a date. The world of Sabrina was made for an Archie-themed Halloween digest, so in a way it’s cheating a little to include so many of her adventures, but then again, it would be a cheat not to include the growing pains of a teenage witch in such an issue. (I’m a gal who grew up loving The Worst Witch, and I approve this message.) One of the most fun segments is the “Little Betty & Veronica” story “A Party For Ghosts,” featuring a much younger Riverdale crew dressed up at ghosts at another one of Veronica’s parties (I’m noticing an underlying theme besides Halloween here. Is Veronica hiding a lifelong ghost fetish? Oh, and who’s that little ghost with the crown? Hmm, no idea.)
Otherwise, the digest’s offerings are the typical Archie fare, with the classic pencils of Dan DeCarlo and Stan Goldberg throughout. I did notice that there were WAY more Betty solo-spotlight stories than usual this time around (more than Veronica, which I’m sure would evoke her wrath if she knew, ha), perhaps as many if not more than the joint stories involving the girls who would become Mrs. Archie Andrews. But there are still plenty of cameos by the usual suspects, sometimes involving interesting costume choices (Betty dressed as “Bunny” the Vampire Slayer in a party segment; Mr. Lodge dressed as—I think…? Judging from poofy curly hair and uber-long scarf—Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor). If you celebrate the best of Archie, Halloween, and especially Betty Cooper, this issue is definitely for you.