Written by Christian Bischoff
A classic has been reincarnated and reinvigorated by the one of the best duos in comics today. Eisner winning powerhouse Mark Waid has joined forces with titanic artist Fiona Staples to reimagine Archie, the long running series that has long been a favorite of readers everywhere since its debut in 1942. The series has been relaunched after 75 years in print, and presents a retelling of Archie that does away with the storyline that has been played out for the book’s many years in print. Instead, we find young Archie Andrews as he was originally presented to the world; a lovable, genuine high schooler, stricken with love problems and surrounded by friends. The reboot is a loving adaptation of the first story, and brings Archie into the modern era.
The comic is, to put it simply, a masterwork. Waid’s Archie is more than a character. He feels real, from his relationship with his friends to his modesty and candor. Archie greets you like a stranger, but by the end of the issue you feel like a member of the Riverdale community, a grateful participant in Archie’s life, which he has graciously chosen to narrate. The entire issue is more than an continuation, it’s an homage, a love letter to all the artists, writers, and editors who’ve worked on the book for the many years it’s been in print. Old favorites return alongside old nemeses, and allusions to character background and behaviors color nearly every panel. The writing, in a word, is genius, and allows the reader to feel like a friend returned home again after a long absence. The entire series has been given a promising breath of new life under Waid’s direction.
Thankfully, Waid’s genius writing is matched by equally incredible art. Fiona Staples is a master artist, whose work in the wildly popular series Saga has made recognized as one of the best artists in comics today. If Waid’s writing serves as the foundation of the comic, Staples’s art is the house itself, the figurative world and bodies through which Waid’s words can act. The artwork is magnificent, equal parts cheery, playful, and incredibly beautiful. The characters are expressive beyond words, and function more like actors and actresses than like art, playing out their feelings in a serious of carefully thought out facial expressions that seem to perfectly capture any given mood. Staples has done more than create characters, she has created people, each with a demeanor and personality all their own, perfectly conveyed through her resplendently gorgeous art. The decision to create the new comics without the typical Archie style artwork was an important and vital one. Staples’s work is deferential to the old style, but achieves a level of revealing expressionism that only her unique style can hope to convey. She is, undoubtedly, the greatest comic book artist of her generation, and she continues to prove that through he work on Archie.
Should the new run maintain its current two titanic powerhouses, Archie’s success won’t be a question. When two consummate artists join forces to develop a single project, the result is undeniable success. Archie is one of the best books out in comics today, and has the best debut issue I’ve read in a long, long while. Former fans of Archie won’t help but love the new version of the book, because for the first time, their characters have become more than characters. The author and the artist have remade the world of Archie and populated it with complicated, nuanced new subjects, capable of expressing far more than their 75 year old counter parts. Archie #1 is an homage to the old, and a reason to look to the future with hope and excitement. So long as the new creative team sticks around, they’ve got a devoted fan and reader in me for life.