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!

Celeste Ng, Jesmyn Ward, and Robin Sloan recommend their favorite books in our newest podcast, Recommended. Download it for free from Apple Podcasts or Google Play.
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