Now is the time to change that. Writer Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Daredevil) and artist Fiona Staples (Saga) have revamped Archie following his death in the pages of Life with Archie last year. The new Archie is back in high school, back to the very beginning, and surprisingly, sharp as hell.
Archie Andrews is a reasonably well-liked teen at Riverdale High. He's friendly, kind, but he doesn't really stand out in the crowd very well. Or, he didn't. The one thing he was known for was his long-running relationship with girl-next-door Betty Cooper - a relationship that has suddenly come to an end, and no one knows why. Now, Archie and Betty find themselves under the spotlight at school like never before, trying to figure out how to navigate a world where your best friend has suddenly become someone you can't talk to anymore.
But the visual storytelling extends beyond that. Staples and her artistic collaborators - a very good Andrew Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn, who give the book a realistic color palette that grounds the cartoonish figures - work great with Waid's script. While too much of the issue is basically just Archie himself talking at us, particularly in the scene-setting opening pages, the issue actually has a lot going on. They're just good at compressing a ton of action into as few panels as possible and trusting that readers will follow the quicker visual cues. Take the panel below, for example:
Archie is clearly having a good time here - he's smiling, just saw a movie he apparently liked quite a bit. But he's also lonely in the midst of all these other couples, something anyone who goes the the theater alone will be familiar with, used to having company with whom he can discuss what they just saw. And, it's a great visual gag, following the row of couples down to establish the sequence's visual language and set up expectations before ending on what the popcorn thought of the movie. All without a single bit of dialogue, and in just one small panel on the page.
Archie #1 is a near-perfect all-ages comic, one that captures the spirit of classic Archie while giving new readers plenty to hang on to. Archie - standard-issue, no-supernatural-action Archie - is always going to be a tough sell in comic shops, but Archie #1 is a powerful argument in favor of more mundanity on the shelves. This kind of story is a staple in teen film and has been for generations at this point, which may make some of the beats the book hits feel overly familiar, though I'd argue it's the rare teen flick that hits them so well. But, as we've seen recently with The Walking Dead, sometimes comics can turn a familiar story on its head just by virtue of continuing well past the point where a self-contained story would have to stop, can find nuance or depth in the finest of details. Archie #1 is a smart, welcoming comic that revels in those details, and a promise of great things to come.
Archie #1 was written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Fiona Staples, colored by Andrew Szymanowicz with Jen Vaughn, and lettered by Jack Morelli. Published by Archie Comics, Archie #1 was released on July 8th, 2015.