by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples
This week saw the release of the flagship book in an all new era for Archie Comics. The success of Afterlife with Archie and Sabrina has sparked a renewed interest in the gang from Riverdale, and the publisher is taking advantage of the momentum in fantastic fashion.
Written by Mark Waid with art from Fiona Staples, the first issue of Archie ushers the gang into the 21st century, and is re-establishing the status quo of Riverdale High’s social scene for readers new and old, in twenty-two pages–with no ads!! 🙂 . That’s no easy task, but the creative team handles it perfectly. The story is full of humor, character beats, and winks to longtime fans. The art is clean, bright, and deftly sequenced. I was expecting good things, as we all know these two are Eisner winners for a reason, but my expectations were exceeded and I can’t wait for issue two.
Story: Archie is cool, charming, and humble. Betty is adorable, intelligent, and genuine. They are the “It” couple of Riverdale High, or at least they were. Mark Waid opens the book with Archie Andrews breaking the fourth wall a la Zack Morris, and guiding us through a quick catch-up on the necessary information needed to enter the Archieverse and enjoy the ride. This was a wonderful way to introduce new readers, like myself, and showcase his handle on the characters, especially Archie. Waid gets a lot of exposition out of the way, without it feeling like an info-dump. We get a sense of who most of the main cast is, and a little insight into their individual personalities. I don’t know who every character is by name, but we were introduced to most of them, and I’m confident in the coming issues that they will be fleshed out as individuals. Most people are familiar with the basic premise of the Archie books, but this recap was essential for the start of this new chapter in the life of the publishing line.
Another thing Waid did really well was to pull off a complete story in one issue. We get introduced, discover a problem, and witness its solution, for now at least. This is important for two reasons; new readers need more than a cliffhanger, and decompression doesn’t work for every comic. By having the issue resolve, in a way, we as readers want to come back for the next issue even more. Knowledge that we can enjoy each issue as a relatively complete story, but also as a part of a larger narrative journey gives the book more value in my opinion. The goal of this book is to bring in a larger audience and continue to raise awareness and appreciation for this corner of comics, and I think Waid did his part to make this a reality.
Art: Fiona Staples has seen a meteoric rise in popularity over the last three years, and she is well deserving of it. Like the book that put her on every “best of” list Saga, here she manages to make every character she draws, the coolest person in the room. Her character designs are so damn cool! She captures the essence of each individual’s style, but ups the modernity and hipness of everyone–even Dilton 🙂 –from clothing, to hairstyles. Staples also manages to avoid having the all digital art look stiff or awkward as is sometimes the case with other books containing all digital artwork.
Her pages are vibrant and playful; the color choices, layouts, sequencing, it’s all done with such grace that you don’t notice the genius unless you stop and really pay attention to the level of efficiency she achieves. In a one page sequence, she establishes Betty and Archie’s entire relationship, by having flashes of then and now shots run down the page. The panels are even arranged like photos, it’s fantastic, and is a great example of showing, not telling, a story.
The Homecoming dance was another wonderful sequence. Staples uses purples, blues, and pinks to portray the difference in lighting and shadows, and it works so well. When Archie is up on stage playing with the band, the comic explodes with energy; the panels are larger with musical bars and notes forming the backgrounds. You can feel the joy of both Fiona as a fan/creator, and Archie, it’s a superb example of why comics are such a special medium for storytelling.
Conclusion: This issue was awesome in every way, and if it’s any indicator of the direction of Archie Comics, then I think the popularity of the publishing line is only going to continue to rise. Waid and Staples both display an obvious love for the characters, and the result is an incredibly fun comic, that does exactly what it set out to do in the best way possible. I highly recommend anyone who is mildly interested in the title to pick it up, even if it’s just to see some all-star comicbookery by two of the industry’s best talents.
So what say you NBC! faithful, how did you think this book fared? Are you new to the Archieverse like myself, or a longtime fan with some more insight? Please share your thought below, I’d love to hear them.