Recently, we’ve seen bold new stories like Afterlife With Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Archie Vs. Predator mash up the horror genre with the bubblegum world Riverdale. While I’m also a fan of these series (check them out!) what impresses me about Archie #1 is that it is equally bold in a way that can’t be described with one simple sentence. There’s no twist. It just does what every reboot aspires to do: it truly reinvents an old story without changing anything that made the original beloved in the first place.
Gossip is flying at Riverdale High following the breakup of Archie Andrews and Betty Cooper. Everyone is absolutely dying for details on the mysterious “lipstick incident” that triggered the split. The couple themselves seem resolved to move on and get past the drama, but their friends aren’t giving up on them so easily… and if you’ve ever read an Archie comic, you probably know without me telling you that plenty of hijinks ensue. But this isn’t just the latest twist in the road for Archie and the gang - it’s the beginning of Archie #1, kicking off a total relaunch of the series for the first time since the 1940s.
Writer Mark Waid has struck a perfect balance between preserving the goofy tone of classic Archie and gently pushing it into something a little more believable, with snappy dialogue that’s got just a touch of teenage angst mellowing out the silliness. No one says “gee,” but no one goes out of their way to drop obtrusively current slang either, maintaining the kind of timeless quality that is purely Archie while still grounding it in the present day. It is Fiona Staples’ art that takes this comic to another level, though. Her characters are so wonderfully observed and true to life that for the first time in many years, Archie and his friends feel like real teenagers again. Oh, and I have a crush on everyone. Especially Jughead.
It was also strikingly wonderful to read a first issue of Archie where characters who were introduced over the years to diversify the cast were there from the get-go, instantly lending a new authenticity to their friendships. The student body of Riverdale High feels more alive than ever before, and I can’t wait to see what they get up to this time around.