Written by Mark Waid
Art by Veronica Fish, Andre Szymanowicz, and Jen Vaughn
Published by Archie Comics
Release Date: January 6, 2016
Many stories have a selfish, arrogant character we find disdainful yet wildly amusing, from Draco Malfoy to Loki. In the world of Archie, Reggie Mantle fulfills that role. In this issue, Mark Waid brings Reggie to the forefront. Betty and Jughead want to peel Archie out of Veronica’s grasp, and they turn to the best conniver they know. Artist Veronica Fish also joins this series, and her illustrations fit the character-driven and sometimes slapstick feel perfectly.
One thing the writing does well is that we sympathize with every character. Veronica, despite being in her own words, “beautiful and rich,” is insecure about being liked at a new school. Reggie is indignant that Archie is oblivious to his own crush object status. Betty and Jughead have lost their best friend and suddenly seem like planets without a sun. Sheila Wu continues to be a delightful and important supporting character in this series, and she complements Veronica by sharing a passion for fashion but as a designer instead of a consumer.
Archie could easily be painted as adorably clueless and not much else, which is how many classic Archie comics present him. Waid surprises readers in this issue by showing Archie as more thoughtful and aware of his friends’ schemes than we’d expect. This series works well because the interactions between characters feel authentic, as do the disappointed and vulnerable emotions characters experience. When Betty and Jughead watch Archie and Veronica from a distance enjoying a fancy party, we feel Betty’s quiet sadness.
Fish’s beautiful illustrations make every character’s emotions palpable and clear. Betty’s mournful expression and Veronica’s serene satisfaction when Veronica and Archie dance are highlights. Fish captures Veronica’s fashion when she relaxes on a pool chaise lounge. Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn’s color choices are stunning, especially Betty’s diamond gradient dress and Veronica’s plum dress with light blue piping. One of the artistic team’s best panels is when Archie high-fives someone in the hallway.
Fish, Szymanowicz, and Vaughn invite us into a Riverdale we don’t want to leave. Waid writes Betty with a maturity and gravity that makes us anxious to know what happens next between her, Veronica, and Archie. Waid crafts friendships with all the nuances of being a teen: jealousy, insecurity, wistfulness. Archie assembles one of the most entertaining and relatable casts of characters in comics today.
The Verdict: 8.5/10