There’s an inherent difficulty in keeping characters who have been around for 75 years interesting and relevant. The standard Archie formula — Archie can’t choose between sweet Betty or rich Veronica, Jughead hates girls/loves burgers, Reggie is a jerk, etc — has been so perfected by this point that it almost becomes an albatross for the company to deal with.
Thanks to a series of bold creative decisions over the past couple of years (including the creation of Afterlife with Archie and last year’s “Death of Archie” storyline), the company has been on a winning streak that has them taking more risks then ever before. The latest of which has the long-running Archie title rebooted after an ominous 666 issues for a dramatic relaunch from the creative team of Mark Waid and Fiona Staples.
But has the company flown too far to the sun this time? For longtime Archie fans and new readers alike the answer to that question is a resounding no.
Archie #1 presents a day in the life of “America’s typical teenager,” with Riverdale’s favorite ginger breaking the fourth wall to introduce readers to his life in Riverdale. We quickly learn that he has long been dating Betty Cooper, the nicest girl anyone could hope to meet. However, there is trouble in paradise and the pair have parted ways — which results in some of his friends rallying to help reunite them as Jughead plays cupid in the most unexpected of ways.
Along the way, the groundwork is laid for future issues — including the formation of The Archies and Veronica Lodge’s arrival in Riverdale. (Although she doesn’t appear, her prescence looms large throughout the issue). It’s a skillfully placed debut that both feels contemporary and classic Archie.
In his script, Mark Waid has provided an Archie 101 for the new readers who will be drawn into this book thanks to the goodwill his name generates. He does an impressive job of creating a Riverdale that feels modern and real. (Hashtags play a role in the story with Archie asking readers to interact with him on Twitter in a way that miraculously doesn’t feel forced or cloying).
The inclusion of recent secondary characters like Kevin Keller and Trev Smith also indicates that Waid will not be ignoring the rich legacy of what has come before. This is a new Archie for sure, but one that respects and loves these characters.
Meanwhile, Fiona Staples art is glorious. Unlike the garish “New Look” makeover of a few years ago that fortunately didn’t take, Staples’ art gives the characters a realistic appearance that feels like the stage in the evolution of Archie following the work of Bob Montana, Dan DeCarlo, and Dan Parent. There are several times throughout the issue where she quietly portrays Betty’s heartbreak in such a subtle and true way that it is devastating to the reader. Her work here is nothing short of astonishing.
The bottom line here? Riverdale is in good hands.