Anghus Houvouras reviews Archie #1…
Comic superstars Mark Waid and Fiona Staples reimagine an icon!
Familiar faces return in unexpected ways in this must-have #1 issue! It’s a can’t-miss kick-off to Archie’s new ongoing series that you just can’t miss.
As the new school year approaches, you’d think Archie Andrews would be looking forward to classes and fun–but nothing is as it seems in the little town of Riverdale.
I was surprised to find myself reading an Archie comic for the first time in decades. I was more surprised to find myself enjoying it.
Like a lot of comic fans, the vast majority of my comic book reading involved men in tights. I was ravenously devouring superhero comics. The idea that comic books could tell stories that didn’t involve world conquering villains and cape-clad do gooders locked in an eternal struggle between good and evil. Archie comics felt like something of an anomaly. I remember my first experience with Archie and the Riverdale gang via a stack of Archie Digests my mom had picked up for me at the local flea market. I was immediately skeptical.
Regular high school students? A love triangle? Real life melodrama? Why would someone waste time on this when they could be enjoying Power Man and Iron Fist dealing out heaping fistfuls of justice? And yet, over time, i came to appreciate Archie. Don’t get me wrong, it would never replace the traditional action/adventure four-color stories I collected each month. However, I found myself finding time for return visits to Riverdale through the popular digest comics that would line the magazine aisle at the grocery store.
It’s been awhile since I visited Archie and friends. I’m immersed enough in the world of comics to have seen a recent pop-culture resurgence of the character in titles like Afterlife with Archie. So I was curious when I was offered a chance to review the brand new Archie #1. Was there something for Archie to offer a middle-aged comic fan who spends countless hours each month with Image, DC, Marvel, and IDW titles.
It turns out there is.
Archie #1 is an entertaining read. Like a comic book version of Degrassi High. Writer Mark Waid has given Archie Andrews and his friends a well needed makeover. Archie is still a lovestruck, musically inclined teenager dealing with the turmoil of High School. He’s more prone to break the fourth wall with a Zach Morris/Ferris Bueller vibe. Most of his issues are the same, driven to madness by the opposite sex. Archie is trying to win the affections of his longtime lust-mate Betty by being campaigning for Prom king.
Mark Waid’s writing is sharp. He delivers well-rounded characters. There are levels at play. Characters have deeper motivations. Archie is more than a guy chasing a girl. Betty just isn’t an object of affection. Even Jughead has more to do than obsess over hamburgers. This feels like a real world with real characters. Fiona Staples art is beautiful. Her poppy panels feel like the love child of Mark Allred and Bryan Lee O’Malley.
Archie #1 is a pleasant surprise. Well written, beautifully drawn, and completing the enviable task of making something very old and nostalgic feel fresh and contemporary.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker and the co-host of Across the Pondcast. Follow him on Twitter.