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Review: The Archies #1

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

Riverdale Announces their Jughead and Betty

It wasn’t long ago that news broke that The CW officially picked up the pilot episode for the live-action Riverdale television series based on the beloved Archie Comics characters. Now casting has begun and it has been announced who will be playing Jughead Jones and Betty Cooper.

Cole Sprouse, of Disney’s The Sweet Life of Zack and Cody, will be Jughead in the comic. Lili Reinhart will be playing Better.

Cole Sprouse Jughead Lili Reinhart Betty

The one-hour drama will be written by Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and produced by Warner Brothers Studios and Berlanti Productions and has been described as a subversive take on the classic Archie mythos. Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schecter, Jon Goldwater, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa serve as executive producers.

The live-action series offers a bold, subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica, and their friends, exploring small-town life and the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome facade. The show will focus on the eternal love triangle of Archie Andrews, girl-next-door Betty Cooper, and rich socialite Veronica Lodge, and will include the entire cast of characters from the comic books—including Archie’s rival, Reggie Mantle, and his slacker best friend, Jughead Jones.

Review: Archie #2

archie002When it was announced that Archie would be rebooted, probably a lot of comic readers did not really know what to expect.  First among there reactions was likely that they were keen to check out the new series, at least as is evident by its critical success, but also some probably questioned just how it would be possible to reimagine the characters that have been playing the same gag more or less for several decades.  The first issue detailed a little bit exactly how the series would go about doing so, essentially with a mild makeover of several characters, still mostly their old selves, but plunked into a world much more like our own.  Milton is still cartoonishly eggheaded and Moose is still a little slow on the uptake, but mostly the characters felt like they might fit in the real world.  While change was somewhat expected for the characters, it felt less like an overhaul though and more like an update.

While the first issue threw the reader into this updated world, it did so with a lot of tricks that won might expect from a teen movie, with a breakup of the school’s favorite couple, a rigged vote for homecoming king and queen, and various other little details that one would expect from something sticking close to the script.  It was a fresh reboot, but still something that has been seen before.  This betty001second issue continues with much of the same to some degree, Archie’s hijinks while trying for employment, a common characteristic of the old Archie, is still here, as are other factors which might have played out in the old Archie.  While there is some of the old, there is actually a lot more of the new that one might not expect from this series, and specifically as it relates to two of the main characters, Jughead and Betty.  Jughead’s back story, and the story of how he got his name, is one which adds a surprising amount of depth to this new story, but is is Betty’s that really elevates this story even farther.  The tomboyish “girl-next-door” is forced into getting ready for her birthday party, in a montage which allows the reader to truly empathize with her.  Whether or not any of the readers have ever really put on false eyelashes or not or other facets of getting made up, the reader still feels the same discomfort that Betty does being forced out of her comfort zone.  Later as she is putting the finishing touches on her nails, her true nature comes out as well, in what essentially becomes one of the most defining moments for the character in her entire publication history.

betty002Indeed, part of the problem of the series has always been that of Betty and Veronica, best friends that fight over the single boy.  It is an anachronistic idea which while it is true to the character’s backgrounds, is also a bit demeaning to them.  This issue gives a fresh take on the characters and updates them not only to modern day, but actually makes the female characters into real people in a way that is revitalizing other series and female characters across the medium.  With just the hint of a look at Veronica it is promising that this new Archie is not only something old, or something recycled, but also something new for the medium, and not only something new, but even something progressive, with a message stronger than teenagers need to have fun, but that they can also be presented as humans with their own intricate problems.

Story: Mark Waid Art: Fiona Staple
Story: 9.6 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy