You Can’t Buy Love in “Archie #2” (Review)
Story by: Mark Waid
Art by: Fiona Staples
Colors by: Andre Szymanowicz & Jen Vaughn
Lettering by: Jack Morelli
Following in the footsteps of the acclaimed issue #1, Archie #2 thrusts us seamlessly right back into the lives and heads of Archie and his peers and shows us once again just how rich and well-crafted writer Mark Waid and artist Fiona Staples’s take on Riverdale is right out of the gate. With Waid’s straightforward, natural dialogue and coy fourth-wall-breaking narration (that avoids becoming tiresomely expository by a mile) combined with Staples’s charming, diverse character designs and perfectly executed sight-gags, the relaunch already feels like reconnecting with an old friend in the best way possible — not a single moment feels trite or redundant, even the ones you can see coming. That’s the classic Archie spirit already, brought to us in full, vivid color by virtue of the great work of Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn once again.
What I liked and loved about Archie #1 is even more pronounced in #2, which I anticipated, but still couldn’t be happier about it. The cavalier way we’re introduced to Archie’s trademark clumsiness — and his obliviousness to it — is not only a testament to excellent writer/artist synchronization, but it also provides us with further insight into the personalities of his friends, and the ways in which Archie is a Loveable Burden in their lives. It’s a nice touch that helps, especially given the focus the issue understandably pays mostly to Archie, Betty, and Jughead, makes these characters feel like characters even in just a handful of panels; they feel like people, rather than just sidekicks orbiting around vaguely to quip out a line or two and vanish. I love the facet of Betty and Sheila’s friendship, I can’t wait to see how Jughead’s “comes from money” backstory informs his future dynamic opposite Veronica Lodge, and I want to believe in what Trevor and Betty could be. While it’s true I’ve been an Archie fan all my life, I don’t for a moment believe that informs my or anyone else’s ability to be quickly and fully immersed in the motion of the story — Waid continues to write both faithfully and accessibly, and Jack Morelli’s lettering helps give the dialogue the perfect punch it deserves; you can see the disdain drip from Mr. Lodge’s words so clearly they almost become audible.
Staples’s mastery of body language feels more obvious in this issue as well; several pages I kept lingering over, enjoying the subtle depictions of Betty thickening her eyebrows with a pencil, Archie tripping and rolling down a hill, or Kevin/Dilton/Raj/Nancy’s in-the-background damage control, but I would be remiss to neglect mentioning the momentum and emotion that carries through the Betty and Trevor scene, and especially our first glimpse of the Lodges. I felt what Archie felt, I swear; Veronica is absolutely stunning. As I touched on before, Staples’s designs are wonderful across the board, and I was excited (and surprised!) not only to see Veronica in this issue, but absolutely adorable designs of Nancy, Midge, and Toni Topaz as well. I couldn’t help be distracted by the last two pages of the issue almost more (almost) than I was by Veronica’s beauty.
While issue #2 holds different stakes than #1 did — it lacks the urgency of a homecoming dance, although the issue’s climax is Betty’s birthday — at the same time, it gives us much, much more. We see more intricate examination of these characters and their newly defined relationships, of their lives and personalities, of where we can expect the story to take them; we can understand these characters without confusion, but there are still plenty of questions to carry with us forward as well, so make sure you check in again next month. But first, absolutely read Archie #2, because if you loved the first issue, imagine: it only gets better from here on out.