Reading ARCHIE for the First Time

This post was written by an Archie neophyte. For an expert opinion, read Paul’s review.

I’m not entirely ignArchieorant of Archie. I have been living in North America for about ten years now, so let’s face it, there is no escaping it. The “what was your first comic” conversation is a recurring one around me. And Archie is always the most popular answer. Now, what I know does fit on a postage stamp! There is a redhead whose name is Archie. There is a blond girl (the nice girl?) named Betty and a brunette (kind of mean?) named Veronica. They are friends and they both like Archie.

 

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Archie #1 variant cover by Kate Leth

I have always somewhat equated reading Archie with a rite of passage, the way French kids read Tintin. The thing is that the setup is already culturally challenging for me. Because when I asked which of the girls the boy was actually dating, the answer was “both.” I come from a country where we do not even have a word for “date.” Yes, French people do meet, fall in love, etc. But there is no status between friends (which means you are not kissing) and boyfriend/girlfriend (which means you are supposedly exclusive). So if Archie goes on a date with Betty on Thursday and Veronica on Friday, where I come from, he is a two-timing cheater. But enough. I have this conversation every other week here and usually shock everybody I have it with. On the other hand, trying to describe the dating process to my French girlfriends makes them scream. End of (unnecessary?) digression.

So I was skeptical that I would find anything for me in that book, but I also could not resist reading it. There is an interesting irony between my philosophy of jumping in no matter the number on the cover and the fact that I identified this #1 as my moment to finally meet Archie Andrews. But here we are.

First, this works! Knowing nothing and reading this issue “cold” works. I was afraid I would miss too much backstory. I was afraid reading it would feel like a joke I wasn’t in on. I cannot tell you what is different and am surely missing out on some things, but this was utterly enjoyable. This is a true #1. This delightful young man just welcomed me and told me what I needed to know to come to the party (by spending half the issue breaking the fourth wall and actually talking to me). So much potential in this first issue.

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Archie #1 variant cover by Chip Zdarsky

Everything is effortless and flows with absolute charm, but at the same time it looks cool and hip. A modern take? Mark Waid and Fiona Staples did a lot more than sticking in a bunch of smartphones or characters with weird colored hair to make this feel up-to-date. This high school appears lived in and vibrant. But at the same time the character designs have a  timeless quality to them. The book actually made me nostalgic for a type of teen sitcoms that seem to have disappeared.

Fiona Staples’ art is pretty, compelling and expressive. A lip bitten, a hand that lingers in the air, a head bent… all these characters feel real.

Archie #1 is very smart in the way it is setting the stage for what is to come. Even I can get behind the unease between Archie and Betty. And I absolutely want to be back to see what is around the corner. And yes, I want to know what the lipstick incident is. Also, is Jughead too good to be true?

I felt good in Riverdale. I am coming back for issue 2!

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