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Archie isn’t what it once was

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By: Hess Sahlollbey

Four issues in and this new Archie series hasn’t simply gotten rid of the old familiar status-quo, it has ripped it apart and there’s no going back. While this fresh new direction for an iconic character may seem strange at first, reading it is one decision you won’t regret.

The last time I read an Archie comic, I was in the sixth grade. My secret Santa gave me an Archie digest, the same kind that you’d see at the checkout at grocery stores. I appreciated the sentiment but was never really an Archie fan.

Fast-forward to 2015 and suddenly the latest Archie comic is what I look forward to the most week in and week out. What started with Afterlife with Archie — a gory and violent horror comic-book where Archie and the gang have to deal with flesh eating zombies — has now resulted in Archie becoming one of the most avant-garde publishers out there. The first spin-off of this new movement was the equally chilling Sabrina the Teenage Witch with its terrifying story and unsettling artwork. This was then followed by Archie vs. Predator where Archie and friends are trapped on an island and hunted down and murdered one-by-one by an intergalactic assassin. All of these new series have become best sellers with fans piling into comic stores to get their latest fix.

With Archie, writer Mark Waid, artist Fiona Staples, colorists Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn and letterer Jack Morelli have created a truly revolutionary spin on a 70 year-old series.

This new volume of Archie begins right after an off-panel break-up between Archie and Betty, who’ve been “a couple since kindergarten,” in his words. An undisclosed “Lipstick Incident” occurred at some time before this issue leading to their split. And while we don’t know what exactly this “Lipstick Incident” entails, it has clearly left Betty so angry and devastated that she wants no part of Archie in her life anymore. This heartbreak between the two characters does not come off as corny — if anything, it makes them feel all the more real. The comic further distances itself from the old, tired status-quo by not making Veronica a main character until the third issue. When Veronica finally does join the narrative, her vulnerable side takes center stage showing readers a side of her that hasn’t been seen before.

And while this new series still retains a light-hearted and funny tone, it’s now more in tune with coming-of-age classics like John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club. This bold new characterization makes the whole Riverdale crew feel like realistic young adults in a comic-book that tilts more towards naturalistic drama like in the works of Émile Zola, Honoré de Balzac, and Gustave Flaubert instead of zany antics that fill the Archie digests. This is a new Archie for a new generation, and I can’t praise it enough.

 

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