Tag Archives: betty cooper

Review: Betty and Veronica Vixens #3

The story picks up a little bit in Betty and Veronica Vixens #3 as the Vixens hit up their first biker bar and get in a fight with some Neo-Nazis  courtesy of writer Jamie Lee Rotante, artist Eva Cabrera, and colorist Elaina Unger. It’s a hell of a cold open, and part of the big picture conflict between the Vixens riding bikes and looking cool and rebellious and them actually righting wrongs in the world. In an admirable move, Rotante and Cabrera don’t give a clear answer to this. The Vixens care very much about their friend/motorcycle guru Bubbles, whose boyfriend got beat up and lost her bike to the Southside Serpents, and also punch Nazis, but they also do random things like knock over trash cans and retaliate for being charged too much for chewing gum.

Who knew that color palettes could be so funny? But I laughed out loud when I turned the page from a grimy Neo-Nazi bar scene to the lush, primary color world of Riverdale High River Vixen practice thanks to Unger’s work at showing the clash between the Vixens’ old life as cheerleader and new life as bike riding vigilantes. Even though most of the girls and their antagonists wear black and white, Rotante and Cabrera give them pops of personality with different hair styles and color like Evelyn’s rebel blond and Betty’s All-American locks. But, as exhibited in her work on both volumes of Kim and Kim, Eva Cabrera’s real talent is action, and the lack of choreography and martial arts background from the Vixens is a kind of choreography on its own as Toni Topaz’s lands a blood splattering hook on a racist Nazi’s jaw.  On a more subtle level, there’s a great two panel sequence where Ethel realizes that the guys she’s been making small talk with are white supremacists, and there’s a look of terror on her face as it seems like the Vixens might be a little over their heads. (I did have issues telling Midge and Ethel apart throughout the comic.)

In Betty and Veronica Vixens #3, Jamie Lee Rotante continues to use a non-linear narrative interspersing high adrenaline biker girl scenes with less exciting flashback scenes that show how the gang came to be with their first vigilante exploits and a lot of issues with communication and coordination. Seriously, with school, extracurriculars, and possibly part time jobs, it’s really hard to get a bunch of high (or the opposite in Evelyn’s case) achieving high schoolers in the same place at the same time. At this point in the flashbacks, the gang is like Batman in his makeshift ninja costume falling off fire escapes, but they’ll be the opening splash page soon. There’s even a nifty training montage/double page spread.

Betty and Veronica Vixens #3 has solid action, team-building, and raises the stakes storywise while spending most of its story time on the Vixens members while those losers Archie, Jughead (Okay, him not so much.) , and Reggie are nowhere to be found. Jamie Lee Rotante, Eva Cabrera, and Elaina Unger continue to break the mold of Riverdale stories centered around love triangles and replace them a story of female friendship and Nazi punching.

Story: Jamie Lee Rotante Art: Eva Cabrera Colors: Elaina Unger
Story: 8 Art: 8.3 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Buy

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Advance Review: Betty and Veronica Vixens #3

The story picks up a little bit in Betty and Veronica Vixens #3 as the Vixens hit up their first biker bar and get in a fight with some Neo-Nazis  courtesy of writer Jamie Lee Rotante, artist Eva Cabrera, and colorist Elaina Unger. It’s a hell of a cold open, and part of the big picture conflict between the Vixens riding bikes and looking cool and rebellious and them actually righting wrongs in the world. In an admirable move, Rotante and Cabrera don’t give a clear answer to this. The Vixens care very much about their friend/motorcycle guru Bubbles, whose boyfriend got beat up and lost her bike to the Southside Serpents, and also punch Nazis, but they also do random things like knock over trash cans and retaliate for being charged too much for chewing gum.

Who knew that color palettes could be so funny? But I laughed out loud when I turned the page from a grimy Neo-Nazi bar scene to the lush, primary color world of Riverdale High River Vixen practice thanks to Unger’s work at showing the clash between the Vixens’ old life as cheerleader and new life as bike riding vigilantes. Even though most of the girls and their antagonists wear black and white, Rotante and Cabrera give them pops of personality with different hair styles and color like Evelyn’s rebel blond and Betty’s All-American locks. But, as exhibited in her work on both volumes of Kim and Kim, Eva Cabrera’s real talent is action, and the lack of choreography and martial arts background from the Vixens is a kind of choreography on its own as Toni Topaz’s lands a blood splattering hook on a racist Nazi’s jaw.  On a more subtle level, there’s a great two panel sequence where Ethel realizes that the guys she’s been making small talk with are white supremacists, and there’s a look of terror on her face as it seems like the Vixens might be a little over their heads. (I did have issues telling Midge and Ethel apart throughout the comic.)

In Betty and Veronica Vixens #3, Jamie Lee Rotante continues to use a non-linear narrative interspersing high adrenaline biker girl scenes with less exciting flashback scenes that show how the gang came to be with their first vigilante exploits and a lot of issues with communication and coordination. Seriously, with school, extracurriculars, and possibly part time jobs, it’s really hard to get a bunch of high (or the opposite in Evelyn’s case) achieving high schoolers in the same place at the same time. At this point in the flashbacks, the gang is like Batman in his makeshift ninja costume falling off fire escapes, but they’ll be the opening splash page soon. There’s even a nifty training montage/double page spread.

Betty and Veronica Vixens #3 has solid action, team-building, and raises the stakes storywise while spending most of its story time on the Vixens members while those losers Archie, Jughead (Okay, him not so much.) , and Reggie are nowhere to be found. Jamie Lee Rotante, Eva Cabrera, and Elaina Unger continue to break the mold of Riverdale stories centered around love triangles and replace them a story of female friendship and Nazi punching.

Story: Jamie Lee Rotante Art: Eva Cabrera Colors: Elaina Unger
Story: 8 Art: 8.3 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Buy

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Advance Review: The Archies #3

The headliner of The Archies #3 is definitely a guest appearance from Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty from Scottish indie synthpop band Chvrches leading to some intense starstruck moments from Archie and Betty while Jughead continues to look for food. However, writers Matthew Rosenberg and Alex Segura, artist Joe Eisma, and colorist Matt Herms don’t let one of the coolest current bands hog the spotlight and continue to focus on the dynamic between the Archies. Jughead kind of nails it when he mentions that he, Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Reggie are used to spending a lot of time together because Riverdale is a small town, but not 24/7 in various cities as a band. Staying in close quarters plus creative differences and a dollop of disaster and geeking out creates the plot and conflict of The Archies #3.

Band with multiple members who write their own songs and are multi-instrumentalists can be some of the best with the Beatles and Fleetwood Mac immediately coming to mind. However, The Beatles broke up after 10 years, and Fleetwood Mac have shuffled lineups over the past five decades with members like Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, and of course, Stevie Nicks doing solo or side projects and coming back to their original band ad nauseam. Add ego to the mix, and it’s even worse, which is why The Smiths will likely never reunite, and Morrissey will continue to make terrible solo albums.

The Archies experience some of these bands’ same issues in The Archies #3 when they nervously interact with the host on their first radio spot and end up playing a song Betty wrote while on tour instead of the single that Archie wanted. Combined with Betty and Archie’s romantic/friend history, it’s a super awkward moment and one of the tensest of the series. Rosenberg, Segura, and Eisma spend most of the issue exploring the fallout with Archie off doing his own thing at the record and comic book store while Betty tries to wrangle the band together. Between the lines, they look at the gendered criticism of a male artist being aloof and hard to work with getting the title of tortured artist while female artists get referred to as “divas”. The appearance of Chvrches in this issue works out for story purposes as well as general wish fulfillment because they trade off lead vocals between Lauren Mayberry and Iain Cook depending on the song and share all writing credits. There’s something the Archies could learn about synergy from them.

Matt Herms creates a terrific energy in The Archies #3’s opening splash page of Chvrches performing before an enthusiastic crowd. And then he turns off the epicness and goes for more bright and kooky as the Archies struggle through a radio interview/performance. Herms’ colors matches Joe Eisma’s art style, which ranges from divine (Any time Chvrches hits the stage) to slapstick-y (Jughead eating food, Reggie messing around with his base). They believe in the beauty of music as well as in the soapy drama of Riverdale teens and somehow mash it together in a way that isn’t dissonant. The gigs are sublime, and the in-between bits are breezy slice of life drama with lots of hijinks. The Archies are definitely not big stars even though they do have a bit of buzz.

Even though The Archies is named after him, Matthew Rosenberg, Alex Segura, Joe Eisma, and Matt Herms take the onus off Archie for bit in The Archies #3 and give Betty some time in the sun as a POV character. They use the feud between Archie and Betty to explore the gender dynamics in bands and also weave in an extended appearance from Chvrches that is both fun fanservice, a chance for Eisma to channel his inner Jamie McKelvie, and is thematically relevant making The Archies #3 the best issue of the series so far.

Story: Matthew Rosenberg and Alex Segura Art: Joe Eisma Colors: Matt Herms
Story: 8.7 Art: 9.2 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Betty and Veronica Vixens #1

Betty and Veronica: Vixens #1 is part feminist critique of the patriarchy values of traditional (and some) Archie comics and part an excuse for artist Eva Cabrera (Kim and Kim) to draw badass girls on motorcycles beginning with breathtaking double page spread featuring plenty of black leather from colorist Elaina Unger. Writer Jamie Lee Rotante begins her tale in media res with a face-off between Betty and Veronica’s girl gang and the Southside Serpents before plunging into the origin story of how the rich girl and girl next door ended up becoming badass biker chicks.

By starting with bikes and attitude, Rotante, Unger, and Cabrera give readers a hook into the world of Betty and Veronica: Vixens before going back to the more traditional, pastel-y colors of the Archie universe where Betty keeps getting stood up by Archie, and Veronica escapes her privileged lifestyle by riding motorcycles with Reggie. However, the boys don’t really matter compared to Betty and Veronica, who drive the story unlike the previous book co-starring them, which had some nice pinup art, but mad the unfortunate choice of having Hot Dog as the narrator. Betty and Veronica: Vixens truly has a sleek modern style of storytelling with spare dialogue during action sequences and clean choreography with Rotante saving her words for enjoyable tete-a-tete’s between Betty and Veronica trying to find their identity in the white patriarchy of Riverdale and eventually deciding to take matters into their own hands.

Rotante plays with and challenges the traditional stereotypes of these two characters, and by extension, women in the Western world, and I can’t wait to see her take on the other women of Riverdale. (And Greendale: fingers crossed for a Sabrina appearance.) The traditional Archie narrative has been Betty and Veronica vying for the ginger goofball, but he’s dead weight in this comic and a wannabe poser, who can barely start his hog. (So many double entendres to unpack there, and in this comic in general.) They are the ones taking the active role against the Southside Serpents while the guys of Riverdale just make a lot of noise verbally and vehicularly, which is dismissed by Betty as “mating rituals” like they’re apes, who happen to wear clothes. This is definitely the Betty and Veronica show, and for once, the cold open and then crazy flashback structure doesn’t annoy me as I’m intrigued how two high school girls recruit and train a gang of badass motorcycle riders that talk trash and back it up with the aid of some handy brass knuckles because Rotante and Cabrera like to indulge in all the tropes.

The icing on the cupcake of the fantastic comic that is Betty and Veronica: Vixens is Eva Cabrera’s fantastic eye for fashion and aesthetic as evidenced by her previous work on the two Kim and Kim minis. Her styles are the comic book equivalent of “ready to wear” with the sleek, black styles of the girl gang fitting in with the fluid opening of the book, and her starchy late-80s teen movie look for Betty and Veronica working with the flashback, forced into gender roles part. Elaina Unger’s accentuate the styles with pastels for Betty and darker, earth tones for Veronica until they go all black everything in the motorcycle gang.

Towards the end of 2017, it seems like Archie Comics is going the “Elseworlds” approach with their non-flagship books, and Betty and Veronica: Vixens is a shining example of how this type of philosophy can be successful with quick one-liners and feminist critiques from writer Jamie Lee Rotante,  easy to read and stylish storytelling from artist Eva Cabrera, and a varied color palette from Elaina Unger that ranges from Rebel without a Cause to the suburban bits of Edward Scissorhands.

Story: Jamie Lee Rotante Art: Eva Cabrera Colors: Elaina Unger
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Archies #2

If The Archies #1 was the band’s origin story, The Archies #2 is all about life on the road, and writers Matthew Rosenberg and Alex Segura, artist Joe Eisma, and colorist Matt Herms nail the intrinsic drama filled dynamic of The Archies in the issue’s title page. Archie is driving the van and narrating at the audience, Betty is actually doing the work and looking under the hood, Jughead and Reggie are arguing, and Veronica is on her phone. One image, and we get the band’s dynamic that Rosenberg, Segura, and Eisma play off for the rest of the issue as the journey to The Archies’ first gig isn’t a smooth one.

However, like classic Archie comics, The Archies #2 is pure wish fulfillment albeit with stylish art and classy colors from Eisma and Herms and some references to cool bands and artists like Father John Misty. And honestly, it was kind of be boring if Veronica’s dad bailed them out all the time and gave a band that should be sleeping in their van or scrimping to get a fleabag hotel, five star accommodations. Rosenberg and Segura spend the whole first half of the comic milking the dramatic potential of five teenage frenemies sharing close quarters after kicking it MTV Cribs style in a double page spread of them enjoying the fruits of Mr. Lodge’s AmEx. But Rosenberg, Segura, and Eisma are wise to not have them experience too much fame too quickly even though they coincidentally keep getting breaks because this is truly a fantasy comic. It’s the pop rock daydreams of you and your friends and maybe that guy you hate on bass starting a band, playing dive bars, and getting famous somehow.

In The Archies #2, Joe Eisma goes for more silly physical comedy with his artwork than the immaculate style and melodrama of his work on Archie with Mark Waid. However, Veronica still has a fantastic wardrobe, and there’s an entire panel dedicated to her picking out an outfit for the gig. But Eisma gets smiles and giggles from the Archies just reacting to the brave new world around them like a super tired Betty rubbing her eyes after practically willing their fan to get to New Jersey, or Veronica practically exploding Then, there’s Reggie strutting and preening in the mirror and wearing a Blur shirt that I seriously need. (Although I pegged Reggie as more of a Liam Gallagher fan.)

The plot of The Archies #2 is a fairly standard young band’s rise to glory story, but Joe Eisma’s gesture cartooning and Herms’ flashes of colors give each band member a fun, quirky personality. Also, it definitely feels like that this comic was made with love for indie music and bands out there living the struggle so The Archies #2 is a book you can give to your grandma, who grew up chuckling at the Archie comics back in the day or to your hipster friends, who might smirk at it and then longingly remember when they though they could be the next post-synth-indie-dream pop sensation. (That’s my not so professional approximation of The Archies’ sound.)

Story: Matthew Rosenberg and Alex Segura Art: Joe Eisma Colors: Matt Herms
Story: 8.2 Art: 9 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Advance Review: Betty and Veronica Vixens #1

Betty and Veronica: Vixens #1 is part feminist critique of the patriarchy values of traditional (and some) Archie comics and part an excuse for artist Eva Cabrera (Kim and Kim) to draw badass girls on motorcycles beginning with breathtaking double page spread featuring plenty of black leather from colorist Elaina Unger. Writer Jamie Lee Rotante begins her tale in media res with a face-off between Betty and Veronica’s girl gang and the Southside Serpents before plunging into the origin story of how the rich girl and girl next door ended up becoming badass biker chicks.

By starting with bikes and attitude, Rotante, Unger, and Cabrera give readers a hook into the world of Betty and Veronica: Vixens before going back to the more traditional, pastel-y colors of the Archie universe where Betty keeps getting stood up by Archie, and Veronica escapes her privileged lifestyle by riding motorcycles with Reggie. However, the boys don’t really matter compared to Betty and Veronica, who drive the story unlike the previous book co-starring them, which had some nice pinup art, but mad the unfortunate choice of having Hot Dog as the narrator. Betty and Veronica: Vixens truly has a sleek modern style of storytelling with spare dialogue during action sequences and clean choreography with Rotante saving her words for enjoyable tete-a-tete’s between Betty and Veronica trying to find their identity in the white patriarchy of Riverdale and eventually deciding to take matters into their own hands.

Rotante plays with and challenges the traditional stereotypes of these two characters, and by extension, women in the Western world, and I can’t wait to see her take on the other women of Riverdale. (And Greendale: fingers crossed for a Sabrina appearance.) The traditional Archie narrative has been Betty and Veronica vying for the ginger goofball, but he’s dead weight in this comic and a wannabe poser, who can barely start his hog. (So many double entendres to unpack there, and in this comic in general.) They are the ones taking the active role against the Southside Serpents while the guys of Riverdale just make a lot of noise verbally and vehicularly, which is dismissed by Betty as “mating rituals” like they’re apes, who happen to wear clothes. This is definitely the Betty and Veronica show, and for once, the cold open and then crazy flashback structure doesn’t annoy me as I’m intrigued how two high school girls recruit and train a gang of badass motorcycle riders that talk trash and back it up with the aid of some handy brass knuckles because Rotante and Cabrera like to indulge in all the tropes.

The icing on the cupcake of the fantastic comic that is Betty and Veronica: Vixens is Eva Cabrera’s fantastic eye for fashion and aesthetic as evidenced by her previous work on the two Kim and Kim minis. Her styles are the comic book equivalent of “ready to wear” with the sleek, black styles of the girl gang fitting in with the fluid opening of the book, and her starchy late-80s teen movie look for Betty and Veronica working with the flashback, forced into gender roles part. Elaina Unger’s accentuate the styles with pastels for Betty and darker, earth tones for Veronica until they go all black everything in the motorcycle gang.

Towards the end of 2017, it seems like Archie Comics is going the “Elseworlds” approach with their non-flagship books, and Betty and Veronica: Vixens is a shining example of how this type of philosophy can be successful with quick one-liners and feminist critiques from writer Jamie Lee Rotante,  easy to read and stylish storytelling from artist Eva Cabrera, and a varied color palette from Elaina Unger that ranges from Rebel without a Cause to the suburban bits of Edward Scissorhands.

Story: Jamie Lee Rotante Art: Eva Cabrera Colors: Elaina Unger
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Advance Review: The Archies #2

If The Archies #1 was the band’s origin story, The Archies #2 is all about life on the road, and writers Matthew Rosenberg and Alex Segura, artist Joe Eisma, and colorist Matt Herms nail the intrinsic drama filled dynamic of The Archies in the issue’s title page. Archie is driving the van and narrating at the audience, Betty is actually doing the work and looking under the hood, Jughead and Reggie are arguing, and Veronica is on her phone. One image, and we get the band’s dynamic that Rosenberg, Segura, and Eisma play off for the rest of the issue as the journey to The Archies’ first gig isn’t a smooth one.

However, like classic Archie comics, The Archies #2 is pure wish fulfillment albeit with stylish art and classy colors from Eisma and Herms and some references to cool bands and artists like Father John Misty. And honestly, it was kind of be boring if Veronica’s dad bailed them out all the time and gave a band that should be sleeping in their van or scrimping to get a fleabag hotel, five star accommodations. Rosenberg and Segura spend the whole first half of the comic milking the dramatic potential of five teenage frenemies sharing close quarters after kicking it MTV Cribs style in a double page spread of them enjoying the fruits of Mr. Lodge’s AmEx. But Rosenberg, Segura, and Eisma are wise to not have them experience too much fame too quickly even though they coincidentally keep getting breaks because this is truly a fantasy comic. It’s the pop rock daydreams of you and your friends and maybe that guy you hate on bass starting a band, playing dive bars, and getting famous somehow.

In The Archies #2, Joe Eisma goes for more silly physical comedy with his artwork than the immaculate style and melodrama of his work on Archie with Mark Waid. However, Veronica still has a fantastic wardrobe, and there’s an entire panel dedicated to her picking out an outfit for the gig. But Eisma gets smiles and giggles from the Archies just reacting to the brave new world around them like a super tired Betty rubbing her eyes after practically willing their fan to get to New Jersey, or Veronica practically exploding Then, there’s Reggie strutting and preening in the mirror and wearing a Blur shirt that I seriously need. (Although I pegged Reggie as more of a Liam Gallagher fan.)

The plot of The Archies #2 is a fairly standard young band’s rise to glory story, but Joe Eisma’s gesture cartooning and Herms’ flashes of colors give each band member a fun, quirky personality. Also, it definitely feels like that this comic was made with love for indie music and bands out there living the struggle so The Archies #2 is a book you can give to your grandma, who grew up chuckling at the Archie comics back in the day or to your hipster friends, who might smirk at it and then longingly remember when they though they could be the next post-synth-indie-dream pop sensation. (That’s my not so professional approximation of The Archies’ sound.)

Story: Matthew Rosenberg and Alex Segura Art: Joe Eisma Colors: Matt Herms
Story: 8.2 Art: 9 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Jughead The Hunger #1

JugheadHunger1Archie Comics’ horror imprint shifts from zombies, witches, and vampires in the gut wrenching and emotionally destructive Jughead: The Hunger #1 from writer Frank Tieri, artist Michael Walsh, and co-colorist Dee Cunniffe.  Opening with the adorable old lady version of Miss Grundy getting brutally killed by the Riverdale Ripper, the comic, like the other Archie horror books, transposes the character qualities of these iconic characters into another genre. What if Jughead’s great appetite for burgers and various and sundry junk food extended to human flesh? What if Betty has great determination because she comes from a long line of fierce warriors? Tieri makes a smart choice by not really changing who Archie is as a character. He is loyal to Jughead to a fault even when he witnesses him murder Dilton Doily as a werewolf. Poor, silly Archie.

The opening pages of Jughead: The Hunger #1 are a master class in how to build suspense in a horror story similar to the cold opens of Halloween, Screem, and recently, Get Out. Walsh and Cunniffe use a strong blue and red palette to contrast a frightened Miss Grundy and her disembodied head. There is a rhythm to her fear and the Riverdale Ripper’s attack that shows up later in his blood red heartbeats as Jughead can sense everything in Riverdale. It’s not as striking as a gory image of furry paw carrying a still bleeding school teacher head, but a double page spread showing that Jughead can smell Midge’s perfume and his dog Hot Dog scratching himself from anywhere in town.

One reason that horror works in the Archie universe is because Riverdale is such an idyllic place. This is a town where deciding to get a second milkshake or choose between two attractive teenage girls are life and death choices so adding any kind of death or gore is a Jugheadinteriormore heightened experience. Tieri and Walsh create even more tension by quickly juxtaposing townfolks looking at Miss Grundy’s body to Jughead going to town on a plate of food, including a whole fish on a burger, at an all you can eat buffet. Walsh and Cunniffe’s color palette does its job again switching out the usual brightness of Jughead’s solo book or appearances in Archie for something washed out and sickly. The ketchup on his face could easily be blood, and Tieri and Walsh revisit this image for horrific effect later on when Jughead realizes that his great appetite has been sated because he’s been supplementing burgers and fries with the people he cares about the most.

Partially because it’s an “Elseworlds” type story and doesn’t affect the continuity of the main Archie or even the Afterlife and Sabrina universes, Frank Tieri says no to happy endings and easy solutions and embraces the tragedy of the werewolf story. Jughead isn’t fluffy Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but like Lon Chaney in The Wolf Man even if Tieri adds an extra layer of mythology by making Betty Cooper, the latest in a line of werewolf hunters, which is the only reason she’s in Riverdale. His appetites can’t be controlled, he definitely doesn’t belong in and someone has to put him down the like the rabid, mutated dog he is before he hurts another innocent citizen.

In Jughead: The Hunger #1, Frank Tieri, Michael Walsh, and Dee Cunniffe exaggerate Jughead Jones’ defining characteristic and turns it into something horrifying. Without his humanity and sense of humor, he’s just a creature of pure appetite and id and makes for a great villain in a horror story. And Walsh takes Jughead’s eating habits, which usually a cute, running gag and turns it to something disgusting as Reggie remarks early on.

Story: Frank Tieri Art: Michael Walsh  Colors: Michael Walsh and Dee Cunniffe
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

 Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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

Archie Gets Hot in Riverdale S1E1 “The River’s Edge”

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In its pilot, ” The River’s Edge”, Riverdale wholeheartedly embraces the fact that it’s the part of the teen soap opera genre and kind of becomes the CW’s spiritual successor to the WB’s Dawson’s Creek.  There are cheerleading/football tryouts, queen bees, teacher/student affairs, love triangles, school dances and of course, existential crises. But writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who penned the excellent Afterlife with Archie comic, adds an extra layer with what looks to be a season-long mystery plot centered around the death of Jason Blossom, who died while on a boat trip with his sister and “soulmate” Cheryl Blossom. Yes, the incest vibes from Aguirre-Sacasa’s Afterlife with Archie series are intact, and Cheryl makes an excellent manipulative villain, but with an otherworldly gaze and speaking voice from Madelaine Petsch.

Aguirre-Sacasa and director Lee Toland Frieger are totally cool with Riverdale being a stylized teen drama. That’s what Archie Comics have been for years, a closed off fictional universe where the choices of “cool teens” (As described by Jughead writer Ryan North.) have the most important bearing. It’s a world where a ginger teenager’s choice between two girls, or in this case, balancing school, writing his own angsty, yet pretty good music, playing varsity football, and working at his dad’s construction business is the center of the universe. Seemingly mundane things are so epic in this universe and adding a dead student and a literally steamy affair between Archie and his music teacher (The extremely de-aged.) Ms. Grundy adds a touch of darkness behind the bright high school tropes, the small town setting, and loads of comic book Easter Eggs. There are obvious ones like Jughead’s crown hat and also more erudite ones, like MLJ Comics, or the original name for Archie Comics, being the name of the comic book store in town.

The best character in Riverdale is easily the timely film reference dropping, impeccably dressed Veronica Lodge, played by Camila Mendes. Aguirre-Sacasa doesn’t set Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica up as rivals just yet as Veronica doesn’t want to be a vengeful ice queen like she was in New York and become a better person. The scene at the cheerleading tryout (Really, who approved them being called the Rivervixens. That doesn’t sound like a real animal to me…) cements their bond as Veronica stands up for Betty to join the squad. After losing most of her wealth and privilege when her father Hiram is accused of some kind of big ticket white-collar crime, Veronica wants to stop being a mean girl and become a good person with her fresh start in Riverdale. But then Archie and Veronica get stuck in a room playing Seven Minutes in Heaven, have an obvious spark as they move closer to each other, start to talk fast, and then slow. And they smooch, and the friendship between Betty and Veronica is shattered although Veronica tries to mend it by immediately running to Betty’s house to talk her down.

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Frieger uses spacing to create relationships (and chemistry) between characters. For example, there are lots of quick camera cuts when Veronica is confronting Cheryl about not picking Betty for the cheering squad. Cheryl is using to having her way in Riverdale, but hey, there’s a new queen in town. He uses a touch of slow-mo early on in the episode when it seems like Archie and Betty are on a date, but then Veronica walks in with her mom, Hermione Lodge, and he forgets Betty even exists. Kudos to veteran TV sound editor Mike Marchain for making us feel like Veronica is the only person in the room, and she is in Archie’s eyes. Frieger also enjoys cutting to Cheryl Blossom in the background of drama heavy showing that she is puppet master behind the scenes of Riverdale High even though as far as being Jason’s murderer, she’s a fairly literal red herring.

Even though Molly Ringwald’s Mrs. Andrews character is light episodes away, Riverdale doesn’t fall into some teen movie/show’s traps and has some compelling adult characters to round out the cast of attractive twenty-somethings. Luke Perry as Fred Andrews is a dependable and pragmatic and is totally cool with his son choosing music over football and working for him. He gives great advice about to Archie about being “confident” in his interests and has a friendly vibe with Hermione Lodge even though he doesn’t trust her. Marisol Nichols as Hermione is a bit uppity, but I couldn’t hate her after she took Veronica to Pop’s early on in the pilot. But winning the award for the creepiest character in Riverdale is Betty’s mom, Alice Cooper. This is probably because she was waitress Shelly Johnson on Twin Peaks, and Mrs. Cooper is paranoid about everything ever since Betty’s older sister Polly ran away from home. She flinches every time she sees red hair because Polly used to date Jason Blossom and isn’t a fan of Basically, every time she catches a whiff of teen sexuality (Which is the entire pilot to be honest.), Alice clutches her pearls a bit more.

Chapter One: The River's Edge

At the end of the pilot, I realized that I was little underwhelmed by KJ Apa’s performance as Archie Andrews. He definitely has leading man looks, but is a bit douchey and seems overwhelmed by everything around him. Reinhart and Mendes more than make up for his shortcomings by giving Betty and Veronica tons of personality, and Aguirre-Sacasa enjoys messing with that love triangle by having him take them both to the dance while making his feeling about Betty just platonic for now. For now, he is an almost empty protagonist vessel, but his passion about pursuing music and secret affair with Ms. Grundy show that not-so-little Archie has potential as a lead.

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Even though most of “The River’s Edge’s” running time is concerned with the life and romantic foibles of Archie Andrews, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa fills the margins of the episode with some great Archie characters. Even though he occasionally falls into the “gay best friend” cliche (And Cheryl Blossom calls him out on this.), Kevin Keller brings some much needed humor to Riverdale and also is someone that Betty can bounce her feelings off platonically. Reggie Mantle is a total bro, but Josie and the Pussycats are fabulous as ever, and in one monologue delivered by Ashleigh Murry, they make a case for having their own spinoff far away from this small town drama. I was a little disappointed by Cole Sprouse’s Jughead, who narrates the episode and is an introverted blogger with a strained relationship with Archie. Hopefully, he becomes as endearing as the Jughead written by Chip Zdarsky and Ryan North soon.

“The River’s Edge” is a little dark, very soapy, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa hits the target as far as the character of Betty and Veronica are concerned. Riverdale could definitely be your new TV guilty pleasure with a strong mystery hook, tons of angsty teen romances, and some pretty musical montages. (There should be a Tegan and Sara song every episode because honestly Betty and Veronica should ditch Archie and date each other.)

Episode Rating: 8.0

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