Decades before the Gorillaz, a cartoon band called the Archies topped the charts with “Sugar, Sugar”. Yes, you can have a number 1 single even if you’re cast member of a Saturday morning cartoon. But in The Archies #1 one-shot, writers Matthew Rosenberg and Alex Segura, artist Joe Eisma, and colorist Matt Herms modernize the late-1960s bubblegum pop sensations into an angst-ridden, high school garage band. The (Pre-Riverdale) Archie characters were known for being an idyllic reflection of Americana, but the members of the Archies don’t really like each other too much with romantic and creative drama taking place throughout the comic. But this keeps things entertaining between Eisma’s beautiful montages. They’re also pretty pop culture savvy with Veronica reminding everyone of her preference for Sleater-Kinney over the Pet Sounds Beach Boys, or Jughead reminding Archie that the Violent Femmes were a trio.
I like to describe Joe Eisma’s art style on books like Morning Glories and Archie as “attractive human chic”. Sure, Veronica, Betty, and various Riverdale residents have killer hairstyles and great senses of style, but Eisma’s lines are more frenetic, especially when the band members are arguing or playing not the greatest. Without the obvious aid of audio, he and colorist Matt Herms make the Archies seem like a pop punk band with maybe a touch of New Wave from Veronica’s keyboards. Archie is a wannabe Billy Corgan/Jack White/Matthew Bellamy frontman/guitar hero though, especially when he records the whole band’s parts. Rosenberg and Segura write him as a music virtuoso, but as a total clueless goof when it comes to interacting with other people romantically or platonically. (Except for Jughead, who he has an easy rapport with.) This goes along with the extremely earnest facial expressions that Eisma makes him wear throughout the issue.
Joe Eisma’s wavier inking sells the comedic moments like Jughead’s constant drum stick face palming, and the utter look of defeat when he sees his friends playing in a band with “lead bassist” Reggie. (I see him as more of a Chainsmokers type though as he struts around like a douchebag and lets more talented vocalists do the heavy lifting.) Even if Archie is more erudite when it comes to music, the silly slapstick that have been a part of these comics is still intact from the moment, our favorite ginger runs into a tree on the third page or so. But the music scenes are played a little more straight with some nice red and blacks from Herms to give the gig atmosphere and show beauty coming out of the squabbling that is most of this comic.
On a plot level, The Archies #1 is a dysfunctional, coming of age band story. It’s kind of like Empire Records if the characters made music and didn’t just sling it. Rosenberg and Segura don’t bog the story down in exposition except for some occasionally humorous fourth wall breaking from Archie. (Kind of like what he does in the main Archie book written by Mark Waid.) There is a lot of unspoken subtext to the characters’ interactions especially when two of Archie’s bandmates are his ex and current girlfriend. Yeah, it’s a marvel that this comic ends in a splash page of a concert and not some kind of mock superhero/supervillain battle. Having Jughead around helps keep Archie humble, and he both keeps time as a drummer and the peace as his chill, burger loving self.
The Archies #1 is another worthy addition to the “new Riverdale” books and will make you wish that Matthew Rosenberg, Alex Segura, Joe Eisma, and Matt Herms teamed up to show the band go on tour, bicker even more, and still make solid pop rock music. (The tambourine is the hidden ingredient to their musical success.) Also, Archie Andrews, goofball popular music savant is my second favorite incarnation of him after Archie Andrews, decapitated Predator victim… (That last sentence was written with nothing but love.)
Story: Matthew Rosenberg and Alex Segura Art: Joe Eisma Colors: Matt Herms
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.5 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy
Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review