Well here it is, the big reboot of Archie Comics titular character! If this is your first Comic Bastards group review you will be reading a variety of opinions from our participating writers and each of them will assign their own score to the issue. Since we’ve got a lot to cover let’s dive into it!
Archie has never been so identifiable, likable, and interesting as he is in this book. The charm of all the characters comes out in each panel. Waid nails the voice of teenagers perfectly, much like he did twenty years ago in Impulse. Staples, Andre Szymanowicz, and Jen Vaughn present the perfect visual world here. The characters are emotive and empathetic. The colors, the details, everything shimmers here and tells the story perfectly. So much of the story here is silent and in the background. This feels like a truly collaborative experience and I love it. One issue in and I'd already like to proclaim Archie one of the best, if not THE best revamp of 2015.
Prior to reading this issue, I had never read an Archie comic before; partly because Archie has never been particularly popular in the UK, partly because I’ve never been particularly interested in any Archie stories or characters. However, coming from two creators at the top of their game, I had to give this new series a chance. Ultimately, I’m happy to say my first encounter with Archie Comics was positive.
This series looks like it’s going to be a fun read; I enjoyed getting to know the characters and the issue was beautifully illustrated by Saga’s Fiona Staples. But, I do feel like being an Archie newcomer I wasn’t as invested in the story as some veteran readers. The supporting cast went on and on about how terrible it was that Archie and Betty broke up, but I found myself struggling to care which made things seem a little over-dramatic from my perspective. Whether other new readers will feel the same, or whether I’m just a cold-hearted monster remains to be seen. Regardless, I did think this was a solid first issue and would happily return for the second instalment to see where things go next.
I enjoyed this issue way more than I expected to.
I’m not one of those guys that has a nostalgic love for Archie. Growing up, I’d occasionally pick up the digests in the aisle at the supermarket and flip through them on the way home, but I don’t have a soft spot for them in the same way I do for Calvin & Hobbes.
Having said all that, this book didn’t feel old-fashioned like I remember Archie being. With the addition of Staples’ art, it almost felt too hip; luckily, they kept a few things classic. Jughead still looks like Jughead, and even with rolled-up sleeves on a button-up, Archie Andrews looks like a pretty believable everyman.
Waid’s use of the direct address was well-done, as well. Archie gets to be pretty clever, and it gives the whole thing a sort of 90’s sitcom feeling. It’s Clarissa Explains It All, but less dated, and with a better visual aesthetic.
Going forward, I’ll be interested to see if Waid sticks with a serialized narrative. I don’t remember many of the Archie comics having much of a throughline outside of Archie trying to decide between Betty and Veronica and Jughead trying to decide between one burger or all the burgers. I like the idea of the ongoing adventures of Riverdale, and I like what’s being hinted at in this issue; the introduction of Veronica and her father, as well as Lodge Industries; shadows of The Archies to come; and I hope to christ Josie and the Pussycats show up soon, because they totally rule.
I didn’t expect to buy this issue, but I sure as hell will be.
As kids, occasionally my sister would get my mom to pick her up an issue of the Archie digest and I’d skim through it at some point, finding it neither charming nor funny and constantly confused by Betty and Veronica’s interest in the unremarkable Archie. I definitely understood that he was a ‘good’ guy, but so what? I say all that just to confirm to readers that, yes, I also picked up this book because Archie Comics somehow wrangled Mark Waid and Fiona Staples to work on this reimagining. Once I saw the first images of Staples’ take on Archie and the rest of the Riverdale gang, I figured it was definitely worth checking out and despite my best efforts to find fault with the comic, I’m completely smitten by the world of Riverdale.
What immediately won me over is Waid’s use of Archie’s fourth wall-breaking narration to straight-up acknowledge some new reader’s hesitation about reading an Archie comic. Right away, Archie tells us he’s unremarkable, and comments on others he admires, walking around with a brave face in spite of his recent heartbreak following a breakup with Betty, the girl who “smells like flowers and motor oil.” Additionally, I liked how amiable their breakup is with both individually telling others that they think the other is a good person, Betty becoming flustered when a friend suggests that ‘the lipstick incident,’ the catalyst for their breakup, involves Archie cheating on her. Bettchie’s (the post-breakup portmanteau a friend makes for Betty and Archie) friends all get some choice lines this issue, and it’s apparent that Riverdale High School has plenty of characters Waid intends to spotlight in future issues.
With grounded, slice-of-life comics, I’m always curious how the artist will manage to make things visually interesting without resorting to slapstick gags or never-ending talking heads. However, Staples shows in this premiere issue that any such concerns are unwarranted. I particularly liked her layouts in the two pages where Bettchie’s friends convince others to vote for the two of them for Homecoming king and queen. Staples conveys each character’s personality nicely through their body language and clothing choices, making it easy to distinguish between them all even as we’re introduced to a new character every panel. Later on when Archie gets the chance to play his guitar publicly for the first time, Staples uses the visual of a music staff to show his increasing confidence, the first bars sporting broken notes until he eventually strums to perfection and wows the crowd.
Lately I’ve been reading my fair share of high concept comics, and it feels as if this one has come to me right on time. Perhaps that’s skewed my view, but as a fun read with heart and great visuals- it’s tough to top this.
There’s a lot to like about this first issue of Archie, there’s some to just be okay with and a little that’s not so good, but manages not to sink the issue. Saying I was surprised by this issue would be a lie. It’s Mark Waid. Frankly it would be more surprising if Mark Waid wrote a bad issue, especially a first issue. Sometimes he’s so consistent and good that it’s almost boring because you know it’s going to be good. There’s never really that fear that he’ll miss the mark because he’s hit it so many times. Seriously think of the last time Mark Waid wrote something that was bad?
I’ll start with what I liked. I like Archie and his world. Mostly I liked his relationship with Betty and since I’m a Betty guy it really bummed me out that we’re beginning with the end of their relationship. But that’s pretty freaking brilliant if you ask me. Rather than at the beginning, we see the loss of love. The pain that only brokenhearted teenagers can feel and it’s pretty damn great.
What I really liked though was Jughead. My goodness please keep this Jughead. Please. Don’t let him change because he may be goofy, but he was absolutely the perfect embodiment of everyone’s best friend. Not just Archie’s, but everyone’s. He was the absolute best part of the comic and the best overall improvement of the series.
What was just okay was the narration. I’m not a fan of anyone breaking the fourth wall to narrate as it is the easiest way to handle narration. The only time its ever worked for me was in Ferris Buller’s Day Off and as good as Mark Waid is, he’s not John Hughes and Archie is not Matthew Broderick. It’s okay, but again it almost seems like it’s trying to be FBDO a little and I wonder if this device is going to stick around and if it does how long before it gets old?
Now what I didn’t like was the supporting cast. Particularly Kevin, Maria and Sheila (I believe that’s their names). Not because they don’t serve a purpose to the story, it’s that they don’t act independently enough for me to believe they’re not the same character. They all kind of talk the same and they all talk to fast and never acknowledge what the other is saying that in a way they are the same character. It was just a big miss and didn’t add any value to their existence. I get that a lot of teenagers are very much like this in groups, but to read it was painful at times, just like it is in real life.
The last dislike I had was the dance scene for only one reason and I know that it’s nitpicky, but I have to be because I’m so tired of this shit. Archie fills in on guitar for a band he’s never played with before. They don’t even know his name and call him “Red.” If you know anything about music and particularly bands, you know that you can’t just strum some fucking chords and pick up on the “groove” of the song and competently fill in. Especially on lead guitar, but that’s exactly what Archie does. I’ve seen this device used so many times and its really misleading and ignorant of how actual music is played and crafted. Even if Archie was a prodigy on the Guitar he would still struggle to play music that matches song that he’s never heard before. I blame Back to the Future which seems to be the inspiration for this scene. I could give you several examples using other art forms to explain this better, but my section of this review is running way to long so just bug me on twitter if you want to hear it. Otherwise this is actually a pretty damn good comic book and I haven't enjoyed this universe this much since they killed him... or faced off against Predator.
Archie #1 Writer: Mark Waid Artist: Fiona Staples Colorists: Fiona Staples, Andre Szymanowicz, Jen Vaughn Letterer: Jack Morelli Publisher: Archie Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 7/8/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital