Story by: Mark Waid
Art by: Fiona Staples
Colors by: Andre Szymanowicz & Jen Vaughn
Lettering by: Jack Morelli
Another month brings with it another issue of the so-far spectacular Archie relaunch; with issue #3 we are thoroughly introduced to the eagerly awaited Veronica Lodge, whose charm and style cannot be denied even from page 1. Issue #3 also marks artist Fiona Staples’s final issue on art for the title for now (but do not neglect to keep following her work through Saga!) – so before continuing I must take a moment to thank her for the wonderful work she’s done. Every comment I’ve made on her work in my previous reviews still applies, but the love with which she visually redesigned these characters in such stylish and fitting ways continues to be incredible, impressive and inspiring (the three I’s). Thank you for your part in creating this new legacy, Fiona!
On that note, this issue stands out to me as almost even more beautiful than the others, although I admit it’s possible that is in part my heavy Veronica-bias talking. The crowd scenes, the expressions, the body language, the character clothing – everything tells its own story here in addition to that being conveyed through dialogue, building up the realistic and youthful environment that this series has been shooting for and building it up well, and that’s to say nothing of the many wonderfully designed background characters I can’t help get actualized later as reoccurring. Still: I felt the body language and expressions were especially fantastic in this issue, which showcases a great many moments of silent communication where one or both of those things are all that’s needed. This is a testament to Mark Waid’s writing as well; these are of course planned, scripted moments even lacking dialogue, but display how well the comics medium can be used when the writing and art are in-synch this way.
Actually, the scene with Veronica in the cafeteria displays a wonderful synchronization of not only artist and writer, but the color work of Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn brings an additional subtle and well-timed layer to the moment, as does Jack Morelli’s lettering (no surprises that his Harvey Award is well-earned).
Now: Veronica herself. Have I mentioned that I’m a Veronica fan? I have been looking forward to this issue with excitement and anxiety, wondering just what the relaunch would have to say about her, but everything about Veronica is absolutely flawless. Waid balances her as the perfectly divisive character she should be, at her best; she’s demanding, clearly spoiled, clearly entitled, but open-minded to new people, new experiences, and – despite her trademark mean streak which I’m sure we’ll soon be hearing from – not at her core an unkind, heartless person. Veronica as the fish out of water works very well in this story, something of a turn on the more classic “nice kid enters new school that is ruled by impenetrable cliques” premise made especially popular by Mean Girls. Watching Veronica do her best on her first day at Riverdale High humanizes her from the get-go, because we can’t help but see her vulnerable moments no matter how much of a social butterfly she may be. Her dynamic with Archie is both well-balanced and reasoned so far as well, as are the seeds sown for her rivalry (if it can be called that) with Jughead and “best frenemy” relationship with Betty; I particularly liked the moment when Veronica sits down with Betty’s friends at lunch in addition to the scene with her and Betty in the bathroom afterward, which really sets the tone of which perspective each girl will be coming from in their future relationship.
Basically, Veronica’s addition to the cast has already set the stage to a whole new level of nuanced dynamics and reactions like the domino effect it should be, but all very subtle and realistic. Better yet, it’s unpredictable, which aside from humanity is one of the things you most want from your comics. Yes – even Archie!