Story by: Mark Waid
Art by: Veronica Fish
Colors by: Andre Szymanowicz & Jen Vaughn
Lettering by: Jack Morelli
Veronica Fish, the new regular artist for the Archie book, has wasted no time really digging in her heels and making it hers; the colors of Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn help breathe further life into Fish’s wonderful take on the character designs, both established and new, and despite the various artistic shake-ups on the title up to now everything continues to flow in easy synchronization with Mark Waid’s dynamic script. It’s a terrific combination of efforts, the best kind of comic book teamwork – and just in time, because this is the story arc I’ve been waiting for and Waid is not wasting any time with it, not a single page or panel.
The focus of this issue revolves more around Reggie and Veronica than our titular character Archie, and while of course I love to see my two favorite characters spotlighted, it’s not so much that but what is being explored, both with them and with the other characters simultaneously. Waid touches upon – without dwelling – the often under-explored and underdeveloped fact of Reggie’s less-than-warm relationship with his parents very naturally, establishing that insight which is usually overlooked in more classic stories into Reggie’s mind early on, and I’m already compelled by the direction he’s taking Reggie’s personality. Character writing is a strength of Mark Waid’s, of course, but it’s still always a big relief to see that your favorite characters’s motivations are unfolding the way they should. I like very much how Waid handles quiet moments in the script and how well Fish’s art – her usage of space and environment – compliments these scenes, and I love Veronica in this issue. She is fun , aloof and complicated, she makes an effort to connect but can’t quite bridge the gap between her world and that of who she’s speaking to, and in this issue especially she really seems to come alive as a person.
It helps that Fish really brings her A-game to the art, which is saying a lot! Issue #5 was great but already the art is improving even further. She has a real talent for energy, motion, and expressions, this is showcased more and more as the characters become more comfortable in her style. Everything about Betty, for instance, is conveyed instantaneously in her body language and expressions; her emotions are worn on her sleeve, but not only that, you see her personality shine through in every panel even when there’s little to no dialogue, and it’s the art that helps push the romantic chemistry so movingly in this issue, you see everything in Betty’s, Sayid’s, and Veronica’s eyes in those moments (and you will know them when you see them). I’ve always been of the opinion that Veronica and Archie is vastly underrated as a romance, and this issue really proves that point to me. Even stepping away from the Mr. Lodge factor, Archie and Veronica’s feelings toward one another are too strong and sincere to be dismissed, even if everyone around them is intent on doing just that.
All in all, the new Archie continues with its down-to-Earth charm, wry and occasionally slapstick wit, and surprising emotional relatability. Yes, it’s fun and compelling, but on top of what was already enjoyable I feel like Veronica Fish especially has brought something unique and completely new to the book with her – hard to define, but something tangible and personal I feel a connection to, truly the adult equivalent of what I felt submerging in Riverdale as a child. Team Archie is really doing a stellar job revitalizing that feeling, but for everyone, independent of nostalgia alone. It may seem like I spend these reviews gushing and refusing to say anything critical, but the fact is simply that I have yet to be disappointed.