Ever since the Archie franchise was restarted, the publishing team have been delivering some really great books. We can talk about Waid’s wonderful coming-of-age story in “Archie,” or the hilarious and charming “Jughead,” or Hughes’s gorgeous art in “Betty and Veronica.” But there are some hidden gems with a little less coverage but the same great quality. But I wanted to shed some light on one of the lower profile titles, “Reggie and Me.”
Written by Tom DeFalco
Illustrated by Sandy Jarrell
Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Lettered by Jack Morelli
There is no one more loved, revered, admired and adored in Riverdale than… Reggie Mantle? Well, at least Reggie doesn’t think there’s anyone as loved and admired as himself. And his best friend can back that idea up — his best friend, of course, being his dog, Vader. The unstoppable duo is known around town for pulling the funniest pranks, getting the hottest dates and throwing the best parties. And if anyone even dares to compete with them, there is going to be hell to pay. Come take a look at the life of your hero, the handsome, hilarious Reggie Mantle.
(This description is taken from issue #1)
For those who may need an introduction, Reggie is the “villain” in the town of Riverdale. He is the classic overconfident creep who everybody hates. But, come on, this is Archie comics we are talking about: fun, harmless stories about a group of teenage friends. Here, even the “bad guy” is like that for a reason, and as Midge says, every bully is a castaway in “an ocean of vulnerability.” And this book tries to explore just that: what are Reggie’s motives to hate Archie, and why is he like that?
The book has a simple plot: after being ditched in a party at his house, our protagonist tries to take revenge on Archie, especially after he broke his first rule: “No one ever pities Reggie Mantle.” So, our little adventure develops; maybe if he manages to get the redhead and Moose expelled from school, he might get a chance with his crush, Midge.
The book is written by Tom DeFalco, who knows these characters very well, which allows him to take a story that is used and abused – “the jock against the good guy” – and turn it into an enjoyable tale. Even the bad guy deserves some redemption, right?
There are two thinks that stand out in DeFalco’s script: first, he makes every issue reader-friendly, introducing Reggie and Vader in a simple, non-repetitive way. And second, given that he has a lot of experience with the world of Riverdale, he gives the characters depth and meaning. The bad guy has his faults and can be redeemed, the big “dumb” jock has more attributes than meets the eye (which I enjoyed specially), and even the dog, Vader, gets to mature.
The line art is done by Sandy Jarrell, a relative newcomer who you may know from some of DC’s digital first titles, Dynamite’s “King: Jungle Jim” and the ONG “Meteor Men” with Jeff Parker. He has a beautiful, simple style, resembling Doc Shaner or Archie’s classic style. Jarrell, along with colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick, takes the script from DeFalco and delivers strong pages with funny and dynamic facial and bodily expressions from the characters. On the first page, we meet Reggie and instantly know all we need to know about him by how he is drawn: he’s an overconfident guy who pulls pranks on everybody he thinks deserves it, and he loves his dog.
Every issue takes a look into Reggie’s past, but also moves the plot forward in different directions, from a party, to Moose’s house, to the football game. Every character gets its moment to shine and learn something.
The story might has an important flaw: Vader. And it is not the dog himself, he’s a good boy who loves his owner, but the “the dog is the narrator” trope is so used that another book in the “All-New Archie” era used it already: “Betty and Veronica.” There, Hughes wastes Hot Dog by making him unnecessarily narrate the story. Here, at least Reggie’s best friend enjoys better development, from being a faithful dog, to doubting his owner’s choices and even changing his mind on doing some particular pranks. But if we see it from a critical perspective, it also feels like a pointless addition to the story until issue #5, where the plot finally justifies the presence of the dog. It’s an odd choice that the Archie editors didn’t see these as repetitive plot points. If the dog is not necessary, don’t use it (I’m looking at you, Mister Hughes.)