04th Sep2019

‘Archie: Vol.1’ Graphic Novel Review

by Chris Cummings

Written by Mark Waid | Art by Fiona Staples, Annie Wu, Veronica Fish | Published by Archie Comics | Format: Paperback, 160pp


I previously penned an article here on Nerdly about the Archieverse and the various titles, old and new, to come from this wonderful world of comics. I mentioned in said article that I would be reviewing many of those books, and so what better place to begin than from the newest iteration of Archie and the first volume of that series.

Archie Vol. 1 was released all the way back in 2015 and collects issues 1-6 on the rebooted Archie franchise. Written by the excellent Mark Waid with artists Fiona Staples (for issues 1 to 3), Annie Wu (issue 4) and Veronica Fish (issues 5 and 6), this was the start of something special, and so it was a total joy to go back and read it again in order to talk about it here in this first review in a series.

Prior to reading this volume of Archie I wasn’t what you’d call someone who was overly familiar with the world. I didn’t grow up with Archie Comics in my hands (sadly) but I was very interested in this relaunched series. I had read a few bumper editions of classic Archie prior, and really dug them. One of the other reasons for me being on board right away was that it was beginning from scratch, a new start that welcomed new readers into the fold while still offering traits that readers of the old-school books could enjoy. Another reason was the people on board, specifically Fiona Staples, who works on the excellent Saga comics through Image, and Mark Waid, a writer I liked a lot from his work on X-Men, The Flash, The Amazing Spider-Man and other huge titles. He’s a terrific writer, and having him on board for Archie’s new relaunch was a huge deal, and a damn good reason to jump on in.

The volume itself is a hoot. It really is just beautifully written and drawn with this easy-going, fast-moving and effortlessly cool vibe that makes it so incredibly fun and smooth to read. I read it in a few minutes the first time I read it, the second and third time though, I took my time, appreciating the beautiful work from Staples, Fish and Wu, and the magnificent words from Waid himself. Waid managed to avoid making the characters into whiny angsty annoying teen stereotypes by inserting a nice depth to their characteristics and quickly evolving them into more living breathing human characters than the old comics did. This is more of a high-school movie in comic-book form than it is a quick-fire comic strip like old-school fans will fondly know it to be. It works. In an age where comic books are so insanely deep, complex and extremely thoughtful, the new Archie series went far enough away from what it was to reinvent itself as something more, while keeping some of the humour and elements of the old stuff. It feels modern, even four years on from its release, nodding to current day popular culture in a fun and seamless way.

The vibrant and colourful work from the three artists who are involved with this volume is delightful. The line-work is so clean, and the reinvention of the visual style of Archie hits hard but in the best way. It is playful, timeless and utterly gorgeous to look at. To say I’m a fan would be spot-on. They nailed it with the relaunch and this first volume introduces you (or re-introduces you) to the Archie-verse in a special way.

The story itself follows out gang of Riverdale teens in a “origins” manner. We find out some backstory on Riverdale favourite Jughead Jones, Betty and Archie’s love is falling down a bit of a cliff and the Lodge’s are coming to town. We meet Veronica. Archie and Veronica have some chemistry, and the whole future of this new world is established, and characters are nicely introduced. If you know these characters already, you’ll enjoy seeing them again with some tweaks to who they are but plenty of familiar things still in place, and if you’re new to the gang, you’ll have a damn good time meeting them for the first time.

Archie Vol. 1 is an excellent book, a volume that immediately sets up the rest of the series. I couldn’t put it down, and found the characters, the world, the writing, the artwork and every other element of it to work perfectly. If you’re still on the fence with this series then jump on down and head to Riverdale as soon as you can. You might be used to your comic books being filled with caped heroes, terrifying villains or sci-fi worlds, but sometimes a good coming of age tale can be just as fun.

Thanks a lot to the folks over at Turnaround UK for sending many of the Archie books to enjoy, allowing me to share these reviews with you fine folks!


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