Why Aren’t You reading This? is a new supplemental column to Jake’s weekly Pull List where CharlieDanger82 reviews some hidden gems that either fly under the radar or are overshadowed by “the big 2” publisher’s crossover event of the decade of the year of the week. Think of it like a backup story in an Annual just with less talented writing.
So when I heard Archie was being relaunched and modernized, I cringed. From the time when the only place I could get comics was Ed’s Cigar Box in Danbury, CT when I was about 5-6, Archie was the one unchanging constant through the years. The artwork didn’t change. The jokes never changed. The constant yo-yo-ing between Betty & Veronica never changed. It was the same comic every issue until about a year or 2 ago with the advent of books like Life With Archie (an issue that each month explored 2 separate timelines where in one he married Betty and the other he married Veronica) and Afterlife With Archie (a grim reality where Riverdale is overrun by zombies and Archie has to try and survive). Both offered some amazing storytelling and tackled some really powerful subjects for an Archie comic. In afterlife, there is an amazing scene involving an inner monologue from Archie’s dog, Vegas, that has just as much emotional impact as any heartbreaking scene from We3. In one of the realities of Life With Archie, the “sexy” rival of Betty & Veronica, Cheryl “Cherry” Blossom, is suffering from terminal cancer and dealing with her deteriorating health and the effects of chemo while maintaining her dignity. All of a sudden, there were characters like Kevin Keller, an American serviceman and Archie’s openly gay friend who Archie died saving from a gunmen. Think about that sentence. 75 years ago, Hell, 10 years ago, would you, in you’re wildest dreams, think that Archie comics would be addressing things like terminal illness, characters with Pathos, LGBTQ rights and a commentary on gun control? It was a new Archie for all ages, maintaining its innocence, but also teaching that life wasn’t all ice cream shops and hijinx with friends. There were also bad things that happen in real life, but they didn’t have to defeat you. But with Archie dead, what was to become of the company’s new direction?
Reboots, relaunches, retcons, whatever the hell DC or Marvel want to call trying to fix their screwed up continuities and horrible “creative” decisions, 9 times out of 10, it usually flops. So yes, when Jake mentioned Archie #1 came out this week, he could hear my eyes roll over text message. Then he mentioned Mark Waid, writer of Kingdom Come (one of my favorite comic books of all time) was writing it. This piqued my interest, being a fan of his writing. Then I saw the cover done by the amazingly talented Fiona Staples and found out that she was also doing the interiors. I knew I had to buy it. I didn’t even buy this one digitally, kids. Much like that faithful day that I bought my first Archie Digest (I bought it along with a Teen Titans digest, the one with the wedding of Donna & Terry: Classic), I bought the floppy. This is a huge deal with me, as now I usually only get collected editions. I brought it home, and I read it… I don’t think I can wait till the collected edition comes out.
It’s so different. The tone is a strange mix of Chynna Clugston’s Blue Monday, O’malley’s Scott Pilgrim without the overt weirdness and pretension and of course, the characters you know and love from Archie. Whether it was an artistic choice or not, every character looks like they stepped out of Urban Outfitters. At first it seemed weird to me, but it’s an interesting concept. Everybody’s equal. There’s no visual distinctions of cliques or other high school class war cliches. It’s really strange, but the only way I can describe it is it looks like what would’ve happened if Norman Rockwell was alive and well and painting an Archie comic. It’s homey, it’s extremely expressive (Staples can effortlessly convey any emotion in facial expressions & body language) and it sucks you right into the world. And yes, of course it feels like a 53 year old writing 2015 teenage dialogue, but you know what? It read like a modern Archie comic written by someone who knows how to craft a story bigger than it’s characters are used to. It had drama, it had a lesson and it had a problem that you can’t just solve because it’s the end of the issue. Sure it had it’s campy parts, but it’s Archie at it’s heart, so you’re not going to be getting The Dark Knight Returns. Waid has big plans for Riverdale and I truly look forward for what he has in store for Archie and his pals.