Them Riverdale kids are at it again! “It” being forming a band as means of gaining social leverage. Check out our Pick of the Week below as we look into how the “Archie” reboot handles Riverdale’s storied love for rock and roll in this spoiler-free review.
Written by Mark Waid
Illustrated by Ryan Jampole
Archie and Jughead have been playing their instruments in Archie’s garage for a while, but now it’s finally time for them to take their talents elsewhere. Veronica suggests that the two form a band—assuming, of course, that she gets to be their lead singer. This bothers Betty, since music was a deep connection that she had always shared with Archie—so she’ll just have to form her own rival band. Now it’s #TeamArchie vs. #TeamBetty in a battle of the bands that has the whole school picking sides!
As a millennial, I have a pretty limited view of music history. I think it goes something like “The Beatles invented rock and roll and then My Chemical Romance perfected it.” Since I’m the target demographic for this “Archie” reboot, it was nice of Mark Waid to drop some musical knowledge on me regarding Archie’s history with music. You know that song “Sugar, Sugar”? It’s the one that’s in every Dreamworks movie when two characters catch each others’ eyes and instantly fall in love. Cake Boss used it as a theme song. Apparently, that song was originally written and sung by The Archies, a fictional band like The Gorillaz if The Gorillaz were more wholesome. They even have a music video where Sabrina the Teenage Witch kisses Archie, turning him into a salivating rabbit. Jughead’s dog Hot Dog gets to lick Sabrina too and he turns into a human clown!(?!) If we’re supposed to decide what comic is the Pick of the Week based on the enjoyment it gives us, “Archie” #11 is sitting high at the top of the mountain with this history lesson.
So yeah, the comic.
“Archie” #11 finds our gang of rambunctious teens after Veronica’s dad’s mayoral campaign ran his opponent, Betty’s uncle, out of town. Since Veronica’s popularity took a nosedive thanks to the whole running a beloved high school teacher and being the daughter of a more handsome Mr. Burns. So she opts to start a band and regain her popularity by winning the school’s Battle of the Bands. Ronnie has a very particular mindset when it comes to making plans. Betty naturally starts up her own band in response, not just because Veronica’s seeing her ex but because she kind of ran her uncle off as part of her family’s political agenda.
One thing I’ve been really enjoying about Mark Waid’s run with “Archie” so far is how complicated it feels. I don’t mean that in a typical way, like Archie’s dropping hot takes on assisted suicide or anything. Even Hiram’s mayoral campaign is pretty plain-cut malicious. But there’s a complexity in high school where things just aren’t going right. You get mad at your friends, your friends get mad at you, and you eventually make it up because everyone’s emotions are going at a hundred miles per hour in the first place. The old Archie stories never really touched on that because it was the 50’s and the only emotion you could feel back then was patriotism and fear. But in Mark Waid’s version of Riverdale, we can get the classic Archie style hijinks (Veronica starting a band to become popular) in a context that feels much more grounded. They even kind of justify why Veronica goes for the rock star route of making friends over just being a regular person. She was a lonely kid who grew up around rich people. Of course you just become a rock star if you want everyone to like you again.
Speaking of rock stars, Ryan Jampole’s art this issue reflects the story’s musical theme in some interesting ways. The actual band practices get fragmented up into these kind-of short stories before the actual Battle of the Bands the panels become a lot more frenzied and kinetic. Especially when one band’s music ends up being a complete mess while the other has these very smooth slanted panels. And then when the issue ends on a more serious notes, the panels reset themselves. If this issue’s a musical adventure, Jampole keeps the tempo up with his art for a comic that feels pretty consistent with the awesome illustrations we’ve seen in this “Archie” run while still feeling unique on its own.
Final Verdict: 8.6 – Like I said earlier, this run of “Archie” is doing an awesome job of taking what made the original comic stand out (mostly its wacky high school plots) with the attention to character that makes you love Riverdale’s students and actually want to laugh with them. My only real complaint is that Mark Waid seems to be really pro-Betty and c’mon man, at least give Team Ronnie a fair shake.