Rating: 5/5 – A Fresh New Take on a 75 Year Old Icon
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.
Finally, after months of waiting, wishing, hoping, anxiety, excitement, suspense, impatience, trepidation, and mentioning it in every Archie review I’ve written in the past year, Archie relaunches its flagship title for the first time since the winter of 1942. This is quite a feat when you consider that other publishers relaunch their titles more frequently than Jughead shoves a burger down his gullet or Archie decides he wants to date someone new. This was definitely my most anticipated new book of the year and I likely wasn’t alone in my anticipation when it was announced that the all-star creative team of Mark Waid and Fiona Staples would be at the helm. With such high hopes, one can only imagine it could lead to major disappointment. And while I had some reservations about relaunching one of my favorite titles, this first issue was everything I hoped it would be and more. This is the book that Archie newcomers will read and finally understand why I love Archie so much.
I’ve met Mark Waid and he is the nicest and sweetest person you will ever meet. However, I’ve often felt like I just can’t connect with his stories and characterizations. This worried me because a big reason I am an Archie fan is the connection I feel for the characters. After reading this first issue, I can say unequivocally that Waid has won me over with his script and that while I may not often “get” him, he certainly “gets” Archie. Touted as a “reboot” by many media outlets, his story came off as more of a refresh of the Archie title than a scrapping of everything that came before. Archie has never been big on continuity, which is not surprising considering these teenagers have been going to high school for nearly 75 years, and that definitely works in Waid’s favor as he relaunches the title. But it’s more than that, as he skillfully crafts a narrative that could have easily been a flashback story arc in issue #667 instead of a brand new #1.
On the face of it, it looks like a loud and bold revamping of the book’s style and tone. Indeed, many people with only a fleeting idea of what Archie is about or whose sole experience is an old digest they read as a kid, may think Waid has transformed and modernized Archie into something new. As a current Archie fan, I see a more subtle revamping and refreshing of the characters and their drama du jour with plenty of nods to longtime readers and a definite sense of Archie’s history. In this respect, Waid shows that he is a true Archie fan. I believe he’s made Archie palatable to a modern comic book audience that wouldn’t otherwise read it, while keeping everything intact that has made Archie great for the last 75 years. Read Waid’s “An Introduction to Classic Archie” in the back of the issue. He gets it. And I think he can get new readers to love the character as much as he obviously does.
There’s not much I can say about Fiona Staples that hasn’t already been said. She’s one of the hottest artists currently pressing pencil to paper and it’s a real treasure that Archie was able to snatch her up (she’s been penciling variant Archie covers for years, but this is the first time she tackles interiors). When the relaunch was announced, there was anxiety by many longtime fans about the house style moving out of the main Archie book. That being said, I don’t think the shift in art style is so different that the characters aren’t recognizable or the whole Archie-verse is thrown into upheaval. On the contrary, I believe she is quite reverent to the house style while infusing her own distinctive flair. Archie still has that naïve and innocent look, Reggie looks as smarmy as ever, and if you were to remove Jughead’s trademark crown, you’d definitely be able to tell it’s your favorite burger eating machine. I found Principal Weatherbee and Hiram Lodge in particular almost indistinguishable from the house style. Overall, the art is hip and modern and really works well with Waid’s script, deftly conveying the subtle humor sprinkled throughout and masterfully expressing emotions without the need for overt dialogue or narration. The color scheme by Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn add to the fresh and contemporary vibe of the book with colors that look like they’re bursting off the neon bulbs of Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe. After one issue alone, any trepidation I may have had about the change up in art has been thoroughly quashed and I think that longtime fans who give this book a shot will feel the same way.
Archie Comics has really done something special with this Waid/Staples led relaunch of its core Archie title. They have done much more than give it a superficial refurbishing with a highly acclaimed creative team, but instead handed it off to a pair that obviously care about the character, history, and legacy. It’s fun, hip, humorous, and modernized, but retains the classic narrative and all the things that make Archie great. I think nostalgia and curiosity are a big part of what made people check out this first issue, but it will be the solid story and art, as well as the endearing and enduring Archie spirit, that will ensure people come back.
Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
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