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All New Archie #1 & #2

newarchie1coverMark Waid, writer
Fiona Staples, artist
Archie Comics
$3.99

Reviewed by Jon A. Adams

Archie Andrews, America’s favorite teen (according to his p.r., anyway), has been re-imagined for the 21st century. Gone is the round-eyed, hash-mark hairdo-ed lad of the past for a Dawson’s Creek-y version that would fit in perfectly on any CW network teen angst-fest. With him is his usual supporting cast (who have, of course, been similarly altered).

His adventures start with a bang as, OMG! Archie and long-time gal Betty Cooper have split up! Oh, no! Well, their friends simply have to get them back together, and scheme to do so by, like, totally rigging the homecoming king and queen elections so that Archie and Betty win and are forced to be reunited at the big dance! Not so fast, thinks Archie’s best pal, the weird yet wise Jughead Jones. Is that really for the best? If they are truly in love, should they not be allowed to find their way back to each other (or not) in their own time? Does this mean Jughead must (gasp!) sabotage his best friend for his own good?

In issue #2, we see Archie attempt (and fail) to earn extra scratch by working various odd jobs. We also learn the secret origin of Forsythe Jones (aka Jughead) and discover how he earned such an outrageous nickname. (It concerns a family misfortune, which goes to show what bastards his fellow Riverdale teens are.) In a concurrent plot, Betty vacillates about her feelings for Archie and covertly allows her actions to speak for her. Meanwhile, Archie’s incompetence eventually puts him at odds with Mr. Hiram Lodge, a wealthy industrialist who just moved into town with his beauteous daughter… Veronica.

As a bonus, each issue contains a reprint from Archie’s first appearances in the early 1940s. Coincidentally, in both these earlier stories and the new stories, Archie looks unlike the character most people would be familiar with. Goes to show nothing is as constant as change. (Oh, and I always wondered what was up with those strange hash marks on the sides of his head. The character originally had an undercut (aka “Hitler Hipster”) hairstyle, and the criss-crossing must have been an attempt to soften the look once that cut went out of fashion.)

I think these reprints serve to remind those who may complain about the modernization that the character has always been evolving. His look may have been relatively consistant for most of his history, but his pastimes and slang changed, certainly the fashions have changed. Just as they had hot-rods and jukeboxes in the 50’s they have cell phones and i-pods in the 2010’s. So even as a purist who usually balks at super-hero “re-boots” that get too radical, I find this take on the character radical, yet still constant with what has gone before. (Including not having the character of Veronica among the initial cast.)

My verdict: I never liked Archie before and still don’t. Nothing against the character; I’m just not into the “teen comedy” genera. And this comic plays it to the hilt, with Archie directly addressing the reader (ala the old “Dobie Gills” sit-com) offering naive commentary and opinion that we readers can knowingly smirk at. But the characters feel authentic, the stories are tightly written, and there is a sense of heart under all the goofiness. Also, it’s perfectly “safe” to give to a younger reader who might be first discovering comic books. So I highly recommend this, but only if you are into that sort of thing.

September 5, 2015
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