Throwback Thursday – Archie’s Weird Mysteries

“You’re right, earthling. Enslaving cheerleaders for our sporting events is wrong.”

I keep trying to like graphic novels. I don’t dislike them exactly, but I always seem to get distracted by the pictures and have to backtrack a lot. This is totally my issue and not the fault of the medium. So, adult me reads only a couple graphic novels and even then, it’s not a regular thing. However, as a kid, I adored comics. Specifically Archie comics. I would ask my parents to buy me one every time we went through the grocery check out. They gave in less frequently than I would have liked.

“Friends don’t let other friends eat vegetables.”

Eventually, Archie comics moved out of my direct frame of reference and became the books that lived on the back of the toilet. I rarely thought about them, but enjoyed picking one up from time to time. Then 1999 rolled around and a new version of the Riverdale gang rolled out – in cartoon form. Now, there had been other Archie cartoons, and I had enjoyed them in my youth, but by this point I was in a phase where many a Saturday mornings were spent on the couch in a hungover haze and what better way to fill that time than Archie’s Weird Mysteries. Terrible science wrapped around a dude that can’t pick between his ladies.

“There’s no library in Riverdale. That’s Starbucks.”

This particular episode is about time travel, so it should come as no surprise that it appeals to my sensibilities.

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The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman (@PollyShulman)

A follow up to Polly Shulman’s The Grimm Legacy that I only read because it was easily accessible on Hoopla and I didn’t have another book loaded. Not a sequel so much as a companion piece, it picks up ‘some’ years after the end of GL. I say ‘some’ because I can’t nail down exactly how many years later. We’re never given Jaya’s age and she just refers to the incident that occurred a few years prior. Anjali and Marc have graduated from high school and are now living together. Marc is now 6 or 7 which means the story is at most four years later, but Jaya is the head page and we know she was 10 in the previous book. So, she’s head page by 14? Uh huh… So we’re once again dropped in a world where I’m not sure who the audience is.

This book reads much more middle grade than the first one, so I’m pretty comfortable saying that’s the desired audience. Pre-teen boys will probably find this story pretty engaging. Travelling through time with a pretty girl? Exciting. For the rest of us – it’s a bit of a yawn. As a side note, if an author is going to change narrators on audiobooks in a series – which is acceptable when the narrator changes –some quality control needs to be done to ensure the names of recurring characters are pronounced the same. At the very least similar or the way they’re supposed to be pronounced.

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Leo comes from a family of top notch scientists, but he just doesn’t measure up, until her finds the repository and Jaya. He ends up being the first person to get a job without a recommendation and the first one we know of who didn’t get the button test. Leo, like everyone else, gives in to Jaya’s every whim. What could have been seen as precociousness when she was ten is just flat out pigheaded at whatever age she is now. When she’s running around in time throwing around information about the future all willy nilly – Leo should have slapped her. I don’t condone violence, but if it would have shut her up, I might have accepted it. She literally thinks she can’t do anything wrong. And don’t blame it on her giving up her patience. That explains her snappiness, not her disregard for common sense. I honestly don’t know what all these boys see in her and her snaggletooth – which Leo brings up so many times, it made me start to think the tooth was sticking straight out of her face.

I like the sci-fi aspects of the story. I enjoyed The Time Machine. I’m not a sci fi buff, but I’ve read enough to appreciate the details within the story. Tesla’s history is fascinating. I was excited when he was introduced as a character, but his character was overshadowed by the introduction of Mark Twain. The interaction between Jaya and Twain was just annoying. There’s no other way to put it. I’d like to be more eloquent, but I can’t. This book, as well at the previous one, suffers from too-many-ideas-itis. There are so many little things highlighted that the big stuff doesn’t get the attention it should and the overall plot suffers.

This book commits one of the cardinal book sins – when the storyis done, the author comes in with a stupid note that explains stuff from the book to the reader. She tells the reader who was real and who wasn’t, what books were real and which ones weren’t – guys, Huck Finn is a real book, I bet you wouldn’t know that without the author telling you. It’s talking down to the reader. If they’re interested in knowing, they’ll go find out on their own. And then we get a second address about the call numbers for the objects. I love libraries. I love a good call number. I do not want to read them over and over and over again. This is the perfect example of too much energy being wasted on the little details. If I’d read this as a paper text, I would have just skimmed the numbers but in audiobook format, they just made me mad. Shulman clearly had a specific picture of the world she wanted to create but appeared to lack a clear picture of the events that happen in that world.

I might suggest this book for my male children in my life when they get a bit older, but I think it’s a pass for anyone over twelve.