It's the fourth and final leg of "Archie's Rockin' World Tour" in "Archie" #653 by Dan Parent and Rich Koslowski, as The Archies roll through Canada as summer winds down and the band members face mixed emotions about the impending end of the tour and eventual return to their normal lives. It's the final chapter of the storyline, but Parent delivers a concise and punchy recap of past events on the story's opening page, for those who'd like to know, but even this summary isn't necessary for a storyline that's pleasingly simple, easily accessible, and plenty fun on its own.
Of course, simple, accessible and fun is what have made Archie Comics so quietly successful for decades, and this latest offering typifies this enduring formula. Parent doesn't forget that his story is talking to both children and adults, and it never loses eye contact with anyone in the audience. As the band makes its way westward through Canada's largest cities, Parent's little geographical and economical tidbits are harmless and nonintrusive, easily sped through by adults who already know or don't care about these factoids, but are cleverly placed educational nuggets for youngsters who might learn a thing or two about the great white north.
But these interesting asides are just that; asides. The real story is about the friendship between these young globetrotters, and the tensions and challenges friendships like these can face. Parent lobs in a few life lessons here, too, but like the easygoing informative bits, they're soft, underhanded tosses, not fastballs aimed at the head. Kids might learn a thing or two about the value of friendship, and who knows; maybe grownups will get a nice gentle reminder, too. Newer cast member Amisha, for example, is a celebrity in her home country of India, but welcomes the relative anonymity and normalcy she can get with her American friends, half a world away. Valerie and Archie cherish their time together on the road, as they know their relationship will tested when Valerie goes back on tour with her own band in the fall while Archie returns to high school. And of course, there are the harmless pranks and shenanigans, not to mention the more sinister ones cooked up by Cheryl Blossom and the ever-conniving Alexandra.
Parent keeps the mood light, as one would expect. The world tour is merely a backdrop; there's nothing about road-weariness, or band chemistry, or lost luggage, or hotel snafus. If not for the occasional panel to remind readers that the cast members are, in fact, a band that takes the stage every night to perform, readers might readily forget this. Because it's not about the music, and it's not about the band; it's about the people in the band, and the usual camaraderie, laughs, and occasional yelling that's exactly the kind of tone that Archie fans have come to anticipate.
Parent and Koslowski are an ideal art team for the book; the talent and style of both is perfectly suited to the Archie house style. There's generally not much that can be said about the art in most Archie comics, and the only time it's usually noticed is when something is slightly off. Nothing's off with Parent and Koslowski, and in fact they get to draw the Rocky Mountains in the background; something typically not seen when the gang is in their hometown of Riverdale.
The issue also features a nice cross-section of characters from the Archieverse, and is most definitely something different from the norm. "Archie" #653 can be enjoyed by existing fans, as well as skeptics who might think that Archie comics feature nothing more than Archie mindlessly chasing Betty and/or Veronica around Riverdale High School. It's fun, it's a little different, and there's even a thing or two to be learned, for those who are up for it.