Mark Waid and Fiona Staples bring the denizens of Riverdale to charming life in “Archie” #2. They have taken classic characters and made them feel fresh and relevant for today’s kids and adults.
Written by Mark Waid
Illustrated by Fiona Staples
COMIC SUPERSTARS MARK WAID AND FIONA STAPLES CONTINUE THEIR REIMAGINING OF AN ICON! The new school year continues to bring with it daunting new challenges and interesting changes for the teens of Riverdale High. But there’s one thing that remains constant: Archie’s car is still a piece of garbage! With car problems comes money problems, which means that Archie’s on the hunt for a new job. Fortunately, a mysterious new building in Riverdale is offering some career opportunities for Archie and his friends. Who’s behind this new conglomerate and what are their intentions for Riverdale? Find out in the second issue of this all-new Archie series!
“Archie” #2, like the previous issue, features immensely appealing characters who are three-dimensional and vastly different from the Archie comics some of us were used to reading as children. This issue, once again, is split up in four chapters that serve as vignettes that either highlight characterization of a particular character or push the plot forward. It’s a fast-paced story with gorgeous art that fits the simplicity and basic emotions of Waid’s script. Artist Fiona Staples, like her work in “Saga”, is able to evoke so much through the eyes and body language. This team, which include the coloring talents of Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn, is very much in sync.
Waid is able to pack a lot into “Archie” #2’s story while at the same time imparting a breezy air to the script. We get a quick and appropriate origin of a pivotal character, problems both big and small that Archie must plow through, and the re-introduction of a classic character. Like “Archie” #1, the titular character breaks the fourth wall and demonstrates his charming demeanor. The word “charming” is suitable for every aspect of Waid’s script. From Archie’s helpful friends to the problems that most teens inflate to epic proportions, Waid infuses his story with an innocence and a bit of edge. Despite being decades older than the characters, he effortlessly imparts them with both fresh and timeless qualities.
There is a love for the world in “Archie” #2 that is free of irony or over complication. Waid, along with the rest of the creative team, loves these characters. From his natural and sometimes witty banter, we get dialogue that has a natural flow. Whether its conversation between Archie and Jughead or Betty and her pal, there is clearly love and friendship being expressed in a genuine manner. There is nothing forced in Waid’s words and that is just one reason why his talents appear effortless. These are just teens who go through the age-old experiences we all had to endure while growing up.
The writing isn’t the only aspect of “Archie” #2 that can be described as charming. Staples art has charm in abundance. Each character’s personality and particular attributes are clearly and deliberately on display. Archie’s clumsiness is endearing as he lumbers along in a dreamy stupor. Staples draws him in a way where it becomes understandable why he’s been fought over by the same two girls for over seventy years. She also causes us to fall in love with the other characters as well. Betty’s look of longing is understandable and universal. Jughead’s laidback demeanor and nonchalant gaze is that much more powerful because of what he’s had to experience as a young child. He is clearly the one character in the book who is wise beyond his years (which is quite different from his past incarnations). Staples infuses personality and intention into these characters and gives depth to the book.
Along with the depth, Staples injects humor into almost every scene. Sight gags are aplenty and don’t have to be realistic. This is a book that breaks the fourth wall, after all. Exaggeration is fun, especially when smoke comes out of Betty’s ears when she gets angry and Archie must dodge physical perils aplenty. Jughead pushing Archie away from a construction job in the opening splash page is touching because they’re best friends while also being funny as Archie reaches longingly toward the building site. The humor can also be subtle as well. Staples is inventive with perspective, like in the panel where Archie is covering his eyes while we see what he views through the cracks of his fingers. Like Waid, Staples is having fun with classic characters.Continued below
Szymanowicz and Vaughn could have gone the cartoonish route and had the pages burst with outlandish colors. Yet in “Archie” #2, they remain relatively reserved and realistic with their color choices. The realism of the clothes that Staples gives Archie and his pals are colored with hues that kids today would choose for their own wardrobe. Flames pop off the page in one hilarious panel while the purple beauty of a night sky illuminates a moment that Archie would like to simultaneously forget and always remember. The color palette that Szymanowicz and Vaughn utilize is understated and subtle. It highlights the many aspects of the characters and their situations that is effective in bringing this world to life.
“Archie” #2 proves that the first issue was not a fluke. That opening chapter felt like we were entering a world that was familiar and fleshed out. This new one continues to exude those feelings in us and, yes, charm us enough to continue following these characters that we only thought we knew.
Final Verdict: 8.8 – “Archie” is another notch in the ever-growing quality line of Archie Comics titles. The future looks bright for the upcoming books indeed.