Archie Comics sent over the first volume of the relaunch of their flagship title, “Archie,” released last month. The “Archie” Volume 1 trade paperback collects #1-6 of the new series and was written by comics superstar Mark Waid (“The Flash,” “Kingdom Come,” “Daredevil,” “Empire,” “All-New, All-Different Avengers”) with art by Fiona Staples (“Saga”), Annie Wu (“Black Canary”) and Veronica Fish. Colors are by Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn with letters by Jack Morelli. The collection also includes a “bonus” of Chip Zdarsky’s and Erica Henderson’s “Jughead” #1.
“Archie” was one of comics’ longest running series, spanning over half of a century prior to this series. The looks of the characters featured occasional updates, but, overall, the series continued uninterrupted from the beginning. The timeless nature of the series, with little forward progress to the story, kept it a newsstand and direct market staple. However, given the ever-changing comics industry and Archie Comics, as a publisher, attempting to reinvent its own place within it, the Riverdale gang had earned itself a new beginning. The task of updating one of American comics’ biggest icons was placed in the hands of writer Mark Waid and artist Fiona Staples. As Staples mentions in her introduction to the collection, this job, naturally, came with a great deal of pressure. No one wants to be responsible for botching the revival of an icon, but, as one will see below, Waid and Staples more than accomplished the goal at hand.
“Archie” is everything that a reboot should be. It takes the iconic elements of a property, discards any problematic add-ons from over the years and molds what is left for a modern and, hopefully, expanded audience. Waid and Staples did just that. “Archie” is still a charming all-ages tale of Archie Andrews and his gang of friends from Riverdale High School. His best friend is still Jughead and the latter still loves cheeseburgers. Archie is still a clumsy redhead with freckles, who manages to catch the eye of many of the girls in town and drives a jalopy.
What has changed is that the story has been reset and is progressing forward. At the start of the series, Archie and Betty have just broken up, after having been together for most of their lives, thanks to the “Lipstick Incident.” At the same time, Veronica has just moved to Riverdale, which further upsets the dynamic between Archie and his friends. Along the way, Waid and Staples re-introduced many of Archie’s supporting cast, such as his father, Kevin Keller, Reggie Mantle, Mr. Lodge, etc. and wove in modern elements like cell phones and reality TV stardom. But, no, the creators have not made “Archie” into a reality TV show. They have just set the story in a world where such things exist, bringing it in line with the experiences of their audience.
Staples nails the updates on the main cast. Archie maintains his charm while still being a bit oblivious as to what is going on around him. This makes him not only physically a bit of klutz, but, also, a social one, see the aforementioned “Lipstick Incident,” and Staples captures it all. Betty and Veronica are no longer different hair colors of the same mold. Both have their own distinct look and style. Betty Cooper embodies the “girl next door” to the tee and Veronica Lodge is every bit the modern socialite. If one questioned why The CW would commission a series based on the Archie characters, all doubts are erased after a look at Staples’s work.
The bulk of this collection deals with the fallout of the Archie/Betty break up, as well as Veronica’s arrival. The “Lipstick Incident” has a worthy pay off as the lone incident that sent the “together forever” couple spiraling apart. Unfortunately, Staples was not able to illustrate the implosion, as she, presumably, needed to resume work on “Saga,” but Annie Wu executes the break up in convincing manner. The remainder of the volume is penciled by Veronica Fish , who fluidly maintains the momentum created by the artists before her, which sees some of the usual Riverdale hijinks take center stage, as Reggie attempts to sabotage Archie’s and Veronica’s burgeoning relationship.
In a current comics industry where relaunches are standard operating procedure and have nearly lost all meaning, “Archie” Volume 1 shows the benefit of a true relaunch, reinvigorating an iconic property for a new audience. “Archie” Volume 1 is available now. To find a comic shop near you, go to www.comicshoplocator.com.