I know what you’re all thinking…Archie comics? My kid sister read those when she was seven. So why should I bother checking out anything that involves a naive redhead who can’t make up his mind between two girls?
Well, what I’d tell you is that what you’re thinking of is the old Archie. Yes, Archie Comics still publishes plenty of books that feature that iteration of the character. But this new series, fittingly titled Archie and written by Mark Waid with a bevy of top artists providing interiors, looks to shake off the cobwebs and bring Archie and his pals forward into the twenty-first century.
What makes this series so unique is the way Waid is able to bring out all of the best elements of the original characters and distill them down into a clear focus that fits in with a modern audience. This new Archie is hip and refined to what a modern Y.A. audience would expect from a protagonist. Gone are the dorky sweater vests and dopey mentality. Archie now rocks a letterman jacket and has depth to his interactions with Betty – his one-time girlfriend, who separated from him because of an infamous “Lipstick Incident” referenced throughout the early issues.
But Waid also takes time to make all of the cast feel fully realized and no longer silly caricatures of high schoolers. Jughead is now a heartfelt friend of Archie who only wants what’s best for his long-time friend and Betty. Betty herself is a girl trying to figure out her newly-single life who’s both a beautiful girl next door and tomboy. Even Veronica has changed into a shallow, Kardashian-esque girl with countless insecurities running through her mind. There’s no shortage of strong characters in the series, and their interactions help to drive the plot forward.
But Waid and the rest of the creative team have also managed to keep the DNA of the classic Archie books ingrained into this new series. Yes, the new books may be pushing forward and trying to have a more modern-style feel to them, but it also maintains the feel of the history that came before it. Even down to little things like breaking up an individual issue into smaller “chapters,” the series doesn’t want to forget what came before it. Early single issues even have short back-up comics that feature classic Archie tales for new readers to discover. That respect to the history is definitely a plus.
All this and we haven’t even begun talking about the art style yet. The book has featured three top artists over the course of its run, and each one have helped to modernize the look of Archie and his friends. Fiona Staples, coming from the hit series Saga, draws the first three issues and really helped to define the look and feel of the new Riverdale right from the opening page. Not only do the characters’ looks and clothing styles all feel modern – almost like a group of artsy hipsters – but the blend of colors and background details help to make the first three issues stand out as something unique.
As the series moves on, Staples drops out and in comes Annie Wu to draw issue four, followed by Veronica Fish for issues five and six. While both of these artists help to continue the aesthetic Staples began, it’s hard not to miss her style once she’s gone. For fans that want a unified art style to their books, this may be seen as a negative. But both Wu and Fish (who is taking over as the regular artist going forward) are strong artists in their own right. With Waid and Fish working together on future issues, the book is in good hands.
When it comes down to it, this new series Archie is the same as its predecessor. It follows the exploits of Archie Andrews, a hopelessly naive high schooler, as he tries to navigate through life and relationship troubles with his friends by his side. Yet this book manages to do what the other couldn’t in that it stands as a relevant piece of engaging character drama that is definitely worth checking out.