Archie Volume One by Mark Waid, Fiona Staples, Annie Wu, and Veronica Fish. Archie Comics, 2016. 9781627388672.
Afterlife with Archie Volume One by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla. Archie Comics, 2014. 9781619889088.
I grew up reading Archie comics. But for me they were always filler — I’d rather have been be reading X-men or Weird World or Arak Son of Thunder. So it’s a little weird to talk about how much I love these books
The Waid / Staples volume feels completely fresh. The writing and art work together to make Riverdale seem real — there’s none of the bland, after school special flavor that I remember from when I was a kid. And this is a nice reset: Archie and Betty have broken up (because of the mysterious “lipstick incident” which neither will talk about), Reggie is hitting on Betty, and Veronica has just moved town and seems to have her sights set on Archie. (The first three issues, drawn by Staples, have something in common with her intergalactic tale of star-crossed love, Saga, which will make reading this extra fun for fans of that series. And I’m happy to say that when Wu and Fish take over art duties for the series, they maintain the tone and energy Staples established.)
And then there’s Afterlife with Archie, with dark, dramatic, high contrast art by the amazing Francavila (The Black Beetle). Riverdale’s resident witch, Sabrina, brings Jughead’s dog Hot Dog back from the dead, starting a zombie apocalypse. When undead Jughead started eating Mr. Weatherby before the first issue was done, I knew it was on. Many of the surviving characters barricade themselves in Veronica’s mansion before it becomes unsafe — they leave at the end of the book to set up volume two (which I’m ordering from my local library now). And just a note on the level of horror: there’s a bit of gore, but it’s mostly left to the readers’ imaginations and only hinted at with colors and glimpses of violence. It’s more PG than the Goosebumps graphic novel adaptations, but it’s also going to get more traction with a middle and high schoolers.