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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

The Lipstick Incident and a Short History of Lipstick in Comics


Captain Marvel, maybe wearing “Cherries in the Snow” or “Toast of New York”?

Lipstick is one of the strangest objects when it comes to comic book characters, specifically its female characters.  If one looks at an average female character, the color of their lips is almost always one which could be achieved by women in the real world only with lipstick.  On the other hand, the modern female character almost never actually applies any lipstick, or at least is not seen to be.  Normal lipsticks would be at least smeared in basic fistfights, and would be subject to all kinds of weird forces from other superpowers.  Imagine Captain Marvel flying at super speeds while wearing lipstick.  Lipstick is basically a thick wax or oil applied to the lips, and it is hard to imagine that anything resembling a liquid oil which would stay put at that speed and pressure, even if it was designed to be somewhat sticky or to stay in place.  The only times that some superheroines might be seen to be applying lipstick (or any cosmetics for that matter) is if they are going out, usually for a night on the town, under the guise of their alter egos.  These moments are rare enough though, and don’t really have any bearing on the superheroics.  The only other uses of lipstick are those as poison, primarily through the Joker and Poison Ivy.  Strictly put lipstick does not exist in comics except as it applies to something else, and never to superheroics.  It is always on but never put on.

lipstick001There is an exception to the lipstick question in comics though, and that is through the role of romance comics.  This is perhaps the flip side of the argument, because as opposed to being rarely shown, it is quite often shown.  In the old time comics, lipsticks were often shown, but more so their application was used as a setting in themselves, as many lovestruck girls wondered into their vanity mirrors whether they should be date Darren or Brad, or whether Tom next door would ever find the courage to ask them out.  The role of romance comics was so strong as to infiltrate even superhero comics, as the Lois Lane series from the 1960s was primarily focused around the same concepts as romance comics.  Romance comics have obviously come and gone from the mainstream of the comic medium, even if there seems to be a minor resurgence underway.  The last major romance comics with any following were the major holdovers from the earlier days into the early to mid 1970s, with series such as Young Romance or Secret Hearts holding out until the end that a resurgence was coming.  The only remaining stalwart in the romance department has been Archie Comics, who have managed to continue their long run in romance by infusing it with a healthy dose of humor.  Nonetheless lipstick has often shown up in these comics in modern years, as they often have a feminine enough approach while also focusing on the romantic side of teenage life.

lipstick004This all ties together to make the new Archie series all the more interesting.  After a long run it was finally decided to reboot Archie with a new look and modified background into a new series.  Apparently gone is the focus on humor, to be replaced instead with a focus on storytelling.  Things are not looking as good for some of them, as Archie and Betty are facing a rocky road after a long time dating.  What made them break up?  No one knows yet, not the characters inside the book, nor the readers outside, but there is one clue, which is incidentally one which the company has cleverly used to create its own buzz, #lipstickincident.  It is not exactly clear what this is, although there are several mentions of the incident throughout the issue, as various characters react to the news and and speculate as to reasons and meanings.  While it is interesting as a hashtag, it is also interesting as it throws an otherwise unknown or ignored item to the forefront of comic books, at least for a short time.  It might not be as engaging as trying to guess the identity of Thor, but lipstick is being used to explain the tumultuous times in a relationship for two of comics’ longest running sweethearts.

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