This week’s lead review for Wednesday Comics is Chilling Adventures Presents…Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe of Horrors #1, the latest scary one-shot from Archie Comics horror imprint. Plus, the Wednesday Comics Team has its usual rundown of the new #1s, finales and other notable issues from non-Big 2 publishers, all of which you can find below … enjoy!

Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe of Horrors #1

Writers: Amy Chase, Ryan Cady, and Jordan Morris
Artists: Federico Sabbatini, Chris Panda, and Liana Kangas
Colors: Ellie Wright
Letters: Jack Morelli
Publisher: Archie Comics

It’s another Archie Horror-themed anthology! Hot on the heels of Betty: The Final Girl #1, Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe of Horrors addresses the latent horrific elements of a broader concept: Riverdale’s well-known diner and teenage hangout. From the classic Archie comics to Archie’s Weird Mysteries to the eponymous CW live-action series, Pop’s is a fixture in the little town called Riverdale.

“Die and Dash.”

In “Die and Dash,” a classic teenage conundrum serves as the foundation for the horror. Written by Chase and with line art by Sabbatini, this story sees Riverdale teens Sherry Thyme and Nick St. Clair attempt to dine and dash after a date. This story had a nice concept, and I enjoyed the reference to the unique arrangement enjoyed by Jughead. 

While I was initially disappointed that the first chapter of “Die and Dash” didn’t feature more gore, the subsequent entries (which appear between and after the remaining two stories) handily amended this complaint. And a touch of classic Archie Comics Satanic numerology rounds this longest story out quite nicely.

“Night Shift.”

Next up is “Night Shift,” written by Cady and with line art by Panda. This story sees Kevin Keller being forced to take a late shift-serving gig at Pop’s out of monetary necessity – another perennial teenage experience. I appreciated the inclusion of labels on the cuts of human seen behind the counter, adding a ghoulish extra layer to the fact that meat’s back on the menu. Plus, it’s nice to see Kevin headline an Archie Horror tale.

Rounding out the trilogy of terror is “Soylent Teen,” written by Morris and with line art by Kangas. This story centers on the idea of cannibalism. Specifically, those expensive dinners where, instead of us eating the rich, the rich eat us! Gotta love late-stage capitalism, huh? This tale featured a gruesome twist: the most desirable of dishes were the most obedient of teens, a thematically clever bit of garnish.

While your mileage may vary regarding these Archie Horror anthologies generally, Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe of Horrors is an especially entertaining example filled with deliciously gory Easter eggs. Wright’s colors are excellent throughout, and Morelli’s lettering is reliably superb.

My biggest complaint about this anthology is that I’d like to see the horrific Pop’s idea further expanded. There’s enough here conceptually for a multi-course meal!

Verdict: BUY (but don’t put it on your tab).

Avery Kaplan

Wednesday Comics Reviews

  • Damn Them All #6 (BOOM! Studios): Damn Them All #6 sees the blade fall on a few plot points that feel satisfying while also setting up shifting character motivations and alliances; which makes sense considering the mini-series is set to become an on-going. Writer Simon Spurrier has Ellie reconciling with Alfie’s death and legacy all while precariously positioning her path in his footsteps and it’s beautifully illustrated by Charlie Adlard with colors by Sofie Dodgson and assists from Shayne Hannah Cui, utilizing heavy blacks to dial up the mood and tone of everything happening from the gruesome violence to the mythic terror of the demons. A detail that cannot go without mention is the lettering of Jim Campbell, giving the characters distinctive voices through the way the text is weaved together and designed and especially the use of the gutters to weave the narration that helps piece things together. —Khalid Johnson 
  • Dead Romans #1 (Image Comics): It’s the stuff of legend. And of history. Three Roman Legions, a unified tribal army of Germanic warriors, and the honor of the Empire serve as backdrop for this Image/Shadowline mini-series. General Varus, governor of the Rhineland territories of Rome, leads his forces on a campaign of suppression. The less friendly Germanic tribes in the region are causing unrest and must be dealt with as only Pax Romana can enforce. Luckily, the governor has among his forces the decorated cavalry officer Arminius. Born a Germanic prince of a Rome-allied tribe, he’s served in the Legion and become a Roman citizen. These are two personages of historic significance, and the campaign they embark upon is real. The reasons behind perhaps the greatest defeat of the Empire, at the height of its power, are the core of this story by scripter Fred Kennedy. Emotions, love for Syrian slave Honoria and hatred of Rome’s military subjugation of a native people, sets a stage for the saga of the Lost Eagles. Kennedy shepherds these elements and personalities smoothly into the opening chapter while illustrator Nick Marinkovich puts us into the muddy sandals of the warriors both on the march and waiting within the Teutoburg Forest. It’s promoted as a tale of love and war, and Dead Romans #1 compellingly succeeds on both those fronts. Fans of historical drama will enjoy it, and so will readers who know that the triumvirate folly of amour and warfare isn’t complete without tragedy.Clyde Hall
  • Groo: Gods Against Groo #4 (Dark Horse Comics): This week we get a finale of the latest book featuring Groo, illustrated by the absolute legend Sergio Aragones, with writing from regular collaborator Mark Evanier, colors by Carrie Strachan, and letters by Stan Sakai (yes, Stan Sakai). Groo comics are really singular, featuring as they do intricate, gag-packed artwork with a sort of old school comedic wit you don’t have see in comics these days. This book has been an interesting one even by Groo standards, with the titular barbarian bumbling his way in and then through godhood. This book, of course, resolves the way it was always going to — with Groo learning little if anything but being a great time along the way. —Zack Quaintance
  • Godzilla: Best of King Ghidorah #1 (IDW Publishing): Save your money. Go buy Godzilla: The Half-Century War by James Stokoe with jaw-dropping colors by Heather Breckel and Joseph Bergin III, because it’s the only story worth its weight and more in this loosely pulled together anthology called Godzilla: Best of King Ghidorah. While you may have spent the $7 USD to purchase this book for excerpts featuring art by Ibrahim MoustafaVictor Santos, or Brian Churilla, what you get is a loose assortment of moments that have King Ghidorah in them, but are not, by and of themselves, about King Ghidorah, and more so largely removed from their context further stripping any narrative grip the excerpts held natively away for a cash grab with a poor persuasive technique. However, even dragged and dropped naked into this anthology, Stokoe’s Half-Century War excerpt offers what you were looking for if you opened this book: a fully sustainable done-in-one finale clash between Godzilla and his greatest foe, King Ghidorah. —Beau Q.
  • The Neighbors #1 (BOOM! Studios): Change is scary because a lot of times, you deal with the unknown. The Neighbors capitalizes on that feeling by throwing tons of change at readers by way of the characters dealing with it all: a new home, a new town, a new family dynamic, a new sibling, a new child, etc. Author Jude Ellison S. Doyle and artist Letizia Cadonici create a new horror story for BOOM!’s roster that by the final page reveal, leaves an unsettling and disturbed feeling of worry for the main characters to deal with that readers will want resolved, but fear what it will take to accomplish that. Colors by Alessandro Santoro paired with Candonici’s art up the creep-factor feel of the book as you dread who’s on the other side of the door knocking so late at night. The letters from Becca Carey contribute to the eeriness of the issue as well, reminding readers how yes, kids say the darndest things, but sometimes those things are creepy as all hell. The potential for The Neighbors to become an essential representative of the queer horror genre is off to a strong start with this first issue. —Bryan Reheil
  • Order and Outrage #1 (Dark Horse Comics): I’m a big fan of both Jim Starlin and Rags Morales, which is why this collaboration between these creators is disappointing. Set in three different time periods, Order and Outrage #1  from Starlin, Morales, Hailey R. Brown, and Michael Heisler, throws readers into a science-fiction world where genetics determine the worth of one’s life.  Morales’s layouts are strong and peppered with imaginative designs for ships and alien creatures but in service to a fairly rote script. The issue ends on what is presumably a cliffhanger but offers no real hint of what to expect next, which makes it hard to get excited about further revelations. Perhaps future issues will illuminate and build on this slow start, but so far it lacks the humanist center or the expansive vision of Starlin’s best work. —Tim Rooney
  • Vanish #5 (Image Comics): Vanish #5, by Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, Sonia Oback and John J. Hill is back with one of its most intense issues yet. And that’s saying a lot. After last issue’s cliffhanger we are dropped into a very disorienting scene where Oliver is in a mental hospital, straight-jacketed. His doctor is the old headmaster of his magic school, and all signs point to Oliver being a normal guy who suffered a nervous breakdown after a downward spiral of combining prescribed medication with hard narcotics. But is it? Because the narrative quickly phases back into where we last left Oliver. The whole issue then jumps between these worlds, and the creative team is able to make both seem like either could be real. It’s not an easy trick, but here’s it’s handled with such detail and passion that I was starting to question it a bit myself. Cates’ writing continues to be great. There’s a lot of emotion here. Cates’ work often features addiction and mental health, and so does Vanish (and this issue in particular). The issue doesn’t skimp on action though, either, with another great cliffhanger ending. Then there is the art.Vanish has always echoed the best of ‘90s comics art style, elevating and tweaking it. This is a wonderful book to look at, and the art has the push/pull intensity to match the writing. Manny Gomez
  • X-O Manowar: Unconquered #1 (Valiant Entertainment): It’s been a long time since I’ve check out a Valiant comic, but here we are with a new series from the publisher’s flagship hero. X-O Manowar is back, and now he’s facing off with space romans, along with a giant space worm and also cosmic forces he does not even know are working against him. Add in a back and forth with the armor about weapons and battle, and you get one of the most metal comics I’ve read in a long time, like someone illustrated the way prog rock makes them feel. This one is written by the team of Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad, illustrated by Liam Sharp, and lettered by Troy Peteri. —Zack Quaintance

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Wednesday Comics is edited by Zack Quaintance.