Story by: Mark Waid
Art by: Fiona Staples
Just as people may have wondered what kind of note Archie #666 would leave us all on, what kind of note was best to wrap up one chapter of Archie Comics history to ready us for a new one, similarly, opening Archie #1 we’re left with a similar question: How do you open a new book on Archie? How do you strip these characters back down to their basics enough to find, once again, where their stories begin?
In the abstract that sounds like it could mean many things, but Archie #1 accomplishes its goals simply, effectively, and beautifully on behalf of both the script and the artwork. Archie serves as our narrator, good-natured and casual, showing us around his life and introducing us to his friends, his school, and his current crisis. Through his eyes we met Betty, we meet Jughead, and a rich supporting cast of both newer characters and old favorites, and right away we’re dropped into the middle of Riverdale High’s latest drama — right away the stakes and tensions are running high. Not for a moment, however, does it rush us through or force our emotional conclusions; the pacing is excellent, and writer Mark Waid does an incredible job balancing the narrative of the story, Archie’s own narration to the readers, and the supporting cast’s already very evident and diverse personalities.
Fiona Staples’s artwork paired with Jen Vaughn and Andre Szymanowicz’s energetic colors bring with them a spectacular charm and life that perfectly fits the tone of the script and the tone of the characters as we know them. Archie is still Archie, Betty is still Betty, Jughead is still Jughead, but under Staples’s pen, we both recognize them as our old, familiar friends, yet see them at the same time with fresh eyes. What blew me away the most about this issue is how perfectly her style meshes with the specific dynamism I associate with Archie — the expressions, the layouts, the unfolding antics — without sacrificing an ounce of her own style to do so. It’s hard to even describe it as a “compromise,” so much as a natural fit; these characters were simply meant to be redeveloped by her.
Archie #1 will not disappoint you. Archie #1 fits so much into 22 pages of story without a single wasted panel or crowded page, it had me invested from start to finish. Waid and Staples have done much more than just adapt an icon, and I’ll tell you how: they have given us an Archie Comics where we meet Kevin Keller before Reggie or Veronica, its an Archie Comics with Maria Rodriguez (I assume) and Sheila Wu as the dominating supporting cast in the very first issue. As a company that has been genuinely progressive in not only making Riverdale itself more inclusive and diverse over the past few years but in also defending these choices in the face of bigoted backlash, Archie Comics is proving their sincerity now by not using the relaunch to just brush these changes under a rug, or even wait for Veronica to be introduced first; this is what and who Riverdale is now from the get-go, day one. Waid and Staples have taken one of the more universal and recognizable cornerstones of American pop-culture and included us all in their new foundations so that we can participate as well as enjoy where another team and another company may have easily called it a day as long as the story and art were solid.
And Archie #1 is solid, beautiful both to read and to look at, not only on a technical level but because even one issue in it’s already, clearly, an Archie relaunch developed by Archie fans. Yes, it’s diverse, and it’s also fun, thoughtful, heartfelt, dramatic… it’s exactly everything an Archie ongoing should be.