Review: Riverdale #1

riverdale1coverRiverdale #1 is a special one-shot set in the summer before the TV show’s pilot episode, and it shows what Archie, Betty, and Veronica were getting up to before Jason Blossom’s body turned up in the Sweetwater River. Each story is penned by a member of Riverdale‘s writing staff and vary in both plot and art quality. They were all tied together by Archie Comics CCO and Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. The standout for me was James Dewille, Thomas Pitilli, and Andre Szymanowicz‘s Veronica story, which is a melancholy mood piece set in New York with the first canonical appearance of Hiram Lodge. He’s kind, charming, and definitely unscrupulous, but a far cry from the old, white patriarch in the original Archie comics and even the recent reboot. If the stories have anything common, it’s the overuse of narrative captions in a manner similar to Jughead’s cloying voiceover narration in the TV show.

Riverdale #1 leads off with Brian E. Paterson, Elliot Fernandez, and Thomas Chu‘s account of what Archie did all summer. Because he’s the main character of the show and a lot of these events have been teased out in the early episodes of Riverdale, there isn’t much original material beyond the fact that he misses hanging out with Betty (Who’s in L.A. for an internship.) and Jughead (Who he pushed away because he’s a terrible friend.). It feels a lot like what would happen if Marvel published a Rey or Finn ongoing comic set between Episode VII and Episode VIII; you either retread old stories or spoil the show/movie before it comes out. Because of these constraints Paterson and Fernandez are in a corner and don’t do much to get out of it beyond an unintentionally hilarious scene where Archie goes from a Dan Parent drawing to “hot Archie” in a few panels. His lust for Miss Grundy and passion for music are spelled out in the narrative/dialogue, but the art is so generic and doesn’t captures his emotions about these things.

Britta Lundin, Jim Towe, and Glenn Whitmore’s Betty story is an improvement on the Archie one. We get to see Betty off on her own as an intern in L.A. helping with a book signing for Toni Morrison because as far as realism goes this universe makes La La Land look like The Wire. There are even some short interactions with her sister Polly, and they have a warm, friendly vibe, especially when discussing their various crushes. (Betty went out with a guy in L.A., but didn’t take it too far because she is still pining for Archie.) Betty is a smart, driven young woman, who know what she wants and even returns to Riverdale against her mother’s wishes. This character trait added by Lundin adds to how great (and occasionally ruthless.) she is as a character in the show. Towe’s art is serviceable with some beautiful Southern California vistas although his female characters all look alike no matter their age.

Dewille, Pitilli (Who filled in on some issues of the regular Archie title), and Szymanowicz riverdaleoneshot-23capture the pre-Riverdale Veronica, who oozes privilege until it all crashes and burns around her raven tresses. The first pages of the story are “Rich Kids of Instagram” the comic although Pitilli’s scratchy inking shows that Veronica’s perfect life is about to crumble. The story is an elegy to being shallow, rich, and having surface level friendships as Veronica’s world unravels in a single, sad montage. Dewille hangs back with the narration and lets Pitilli and Szymanowicz’s beautiful art and the progressive darkening of the color palette. This story is a sturdy foundation for Veronica tossing aside her spoiled, privileged roots and becoming a decent human being and friend in the Riverdale show.

Even if Will Ewing’s plotline is just rehashing the bits and pieces of Jughead’s backstory we’ve seen in the Riverdale show, the Jughead story in Riverdale #1 easily has the cleanest and best art courtesy of veteran penciler Alitha Martinez (World of Wakandaand Bob SmithIt’s sharp and evocative just like the films that he projects at the Starlight Drive-In. Ewing’s script lets Jughead be a little self-aware and sardonic to go with his brooding sadness as he admits that he’s not really a writer early on in the comic. Plus he eats burgers non-stop, including for breakfast. And, if anything, the Jughead story reveals that Archie is a terrible friend with Martinez and Smith showing him slowly choose hanging out with random girls over his best friend in a wistful montage. It’s sad to say that the Jughead/Archie relationship was broken long before Miss Grundy entered the picture.

Like a lot of media tie-ins, Riverdale #1 has its ups and downs. The Archie story is definitely a downer. However, the Veronica story is a little bit like an early Lana Del Rey song (Especially the pop art portrait of Marilyn Monroe in the Lodges’ mansion.), and Alitha Martinez is a talented artist so this book is definitely worth flipping through if you’re a fan of the show.

Story: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Brian E Paterson, Britta Lundin, James Dewille, Will Ewing Art: Elliot Fernandez, Jim Towe, Thomas Pitilli, Alitha Martinez, Bob Smith Colors: Thomas Chu, Glenn Whitmore, Andre Szymanowicz
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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