“Archie 1941” is a curious comic book starring the famous pop culture icon on the year he debuted. The series is a return to form for the characters, but will likely bear a more serious tone than some readers will anticipate. Author Mark Waid is no stranger to Archie and for this monumental task, he brought collaborator Brian Augustyn to tell the story. Waid’s “Irredeemable” collaborator Peter Krause is also returning for the story. Readers get Waid’s take on Archie plus Krause and Augustyn. While the issue may not be breaking any new ground, the ’40s time period and opportunity to reinvent the character is a fascinating opportunity. Will these comics be able to live up to the originals or serve as a solid companion piece to the original issues?
Written by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn
Illustrated by Peter Krause
Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Lettered by Jack Morelli
THE HISTORIC, GROUND-BREAKING MINI-SERIES STARTS HERE! Archie has been around for over 75 years and has been through many significant moments in time, but never before have we seen the characters take on real-world events as they unfold. WWII is looming and Archie and many young men from Riverdale are close to enlistment age. If you’re a Riverdale teen, how would you cope with a looming world-changing event? Join the writing team of MARK WAID and BRIAN AUGUSTYN along with artist PETER KRAUSE for the all-new mini-series that is sure to have everyone talking!
Telling a story like “Archie” already requires a sense of pastiche, but turning the clock back and setting the tale in the ’40s calls on an incredibly particular skillset from the creators. Thankfully, Archie has assembled just the right team for “Archie 1941.” Waid, Augustyn, and Krause inject the narrative with all the elements a title like this calls for and the issue looks exceptional from start-to-finish. All the aspects of the period are present here from the retro-aesthetically themed clothes to the toxic masculinity baked into the narrative.
Krause depicts the issue with a solemn, intimate style containing excellent facial expressions and minimalistic detail. Krause’s subtle approach to the page composition and rigid line work is the best use of his style I have ever seen. His pencils are straightforward and have a looming sense of guilt and nervous energy allowing for Archie’s anxiety to flow right off the page. The issue’s slight tendency towards a melodramatic style is also captured well by Krause and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick. While the colors are bright, silhouettes carry some of the more dour scenes. Krause and Fitzpatrick’s newsreel scenes during the movie screening moments also look fantastic with the colors drowned out.
The issue is fairly subtle and contains a slightly more sad vibe making it distinctive from the main title. Getting a cohesive feeling from Archie with the tone of 1941 slightly changing the issue is a great way to experience the Archie line. The experimental direction the publisher has taken over the past couple of years culminates extremely well in this mini-series. Even though the issue itself is fairly simplistic, Waid and Augustyn are essentially redoing the “Archie” mythos yet again. The full team takes a similar direction to the ongoing series casting Archie Andrews himself as a do-gooder but there are certain elements about this story that are darker than the main title. Andrews has more sinister interactions with his teacher, townspeople, and parents. In most stories surrounding the protagonist, he has a more positive outlook.
Archie’s relationship with his father is troubled and one of the core points of conflict in the comic. His father comes off with a sad, masculine demeanor that represents a certain level of cruelty. The rest of Riverdale also has an interesting relationship with Andrews. Whereas in the main title, the surrounding cast always carries a love for the cast, there is a feeling of resentment even the principle seems to carry towards Andrews and company. The revision makes the background of the title feel more real.
It is also good for Waid and Augustyn to get as dark as they can with the mini-series in the early chapters as it presents a way for Archie to rise above some of his demons as the series progresses. The issue does go too far in a scene with Betty where Archie’s relationship drama takes a turn for the cliche and adopts some of the worst moments from the core “Archie” title. In the scene, Archie’s negative outlook causes him to physically lash out at another person. Later on in the title, he actually throws a picture frame on the floor. These moments are brief and the preview for the next installment event teases a different direction for those characters.Continued below
What could have been a naval-gazing retro-pastiche of nothingness turns out to be a great way for the creative team to invert the characters. “Archie 1941” #1 does not concern itself with a dedication to past source material. Readers also come into the series after time has passed and Archie has experienced some history between himself and other members of Riverdale. The beautiful art and nuanced relationships with the core cast members make the idea feel worthy of the mini-series. Archie did a great job curating the Mark Waid creative team with Krause and Augustyn as well. I hope the publisher will follow this tradition and continue to take chances with this malleable character.
Final Verdict: 8.7 – “Archie 1941” #1 is a modest and sobering representation of the early days of Archie Andrews.