The Resurrection of Archie
How do you keep Archie relevant for modern times? Maybe more importantly, how do you do that without alienating the dedicated fanbase that loves it as-is? This is probably the question that Archie Comic Publications has been wrestling with since the franchise was established in the 1940s. Even when I had a brief love affair with Archie digests in the early 90s as a kid, I always thought of them as entertainment aimed at my grandmother.
From a distance, I’ve seen digest covers that feature the gang playing video games, to weird zombie spin-offs and Predator crossovers, right down to the actual death of Archie in Life with Archie #36. Having read those final issues involving his demise, it wasn’t enough to shake my perceptions of this being an antiquated franchise.
Fast forward to the present, and sitting in my house is a copy of Archie #1 by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples. Sporting a modern look from the artist behind Saga, the cover alone makes it look like the most daring attempt at a reboot yet. After reading it, I’m not sure if my grandma would have enjoyed this, but I’m actually taken aback at how strong of a first issue this was.
Still set in Riverdale, many familiar faces appear in the debut issue. They may look different, but in this case it’s certainly not a bad thing. Every character is still instantly recognizable, even if they have been updated. As a fan of Fiona Staples’ work on Saga, I love that she gives everything a trendy look without compromising too much of what makes this franchise special.
Writer Mark Waid quickly sets the tone by having Archie share with us the events that led up to his recently-complicated relationship with Betty. Keeping the hijinx to a relative minimum, all of the characters involved evoke the same spirit of their original counterparts, making their new looks much easier to digest. Best of all, the warmth and wholesomeness of an Archie story shines bright while being amplified by a story built with a modern framework.
If issue #1 is any indication, Archie may have successfully made his biggest jump yet. Waid and Staples together have created a stellar first issue that isn’t just a great Archie title, but one of the best debut issues I’ve read all year. Never thought I’d be excited to revisit Riverdale, but this is the most compelling reason to go back in quite some time.