ADVANCED REVIEW: Riverdale (Ongoing) #1

I have been reviewing for Comic Crusaders for a year now, but before then I had never read an Archie comic in my life. No Jughead, Betty, or Veronica for me. I always thought is was some 1960’s kids comic about silly teen drama found in the cashier’s line at the grocery store, not to be taken seriously by any real comic book fan. Little did I know that the Archie Comics brand has been given a major face lift recently and the material is much less suited for a newspaper strip and deserving of praise from skeptics like me. Not only do we have the standard books revolving around the main four characters, but there are comics about Josie & the Pussycats, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Kevin (who stands out as an open homosexual), and even horror titles set in Riverdale. Surely, the company is listening and responding to the demands of the consumer.

Now, the CW has a hit show based on Archie entitled “Riverdale”, naturally, and I have been watching it with my wife, who is a surprise fan. We love the CW though, so it should come as no surprise, but she has never shown interest in Archie until the show. With this in mind, Archie first put out a Riverdale One Shot (that I covered last month) and are debuting their ongoing Riverdale title at the end of March in hopes of drawing in fans of the show to a new way to indulge their love of the characters in a printed medium. They even include bonus material in the end of this issue to promote the show and ads for their other Archie comics. As a fan of both the show and the direction Archie Comics have taken, I thought I would be an excellent source of insight for new, casual, and long-time Archie fans. Keep in mind, this is Spoiler Free per the request of the publisher, so I will do my best to keep you in suspense.

This first issue is told in two parts. “Bloodsport” involves Archie joining the varsity football team as quarterback, taking Jason Blossom’s place for reasons I won’t discuss here. As part of his initiation, Archie and other new varsity members must endure “hell week” as initiation. Some of the tasks are trivial or embarrassing, but one may prove to much to handle for one or more initiates. Archie struggles to fill the shoes of Jason and gets extra scrutiny from the seniors who resent him. We don’t see much of Jughead in this, but it’s par for the course considering how little screen time he gets in the first couple episodes. The second story in this comic takes a page from the football team’s playbook, so to speak, by having Cheryl Blossom (Jason’s twin) abuse her power as cheer captain by putting Betty Cooper through a gauntlet of three tasks to break her and force her to quit the squad. There is a family rivalry between the two, so Cheryl does her best to embarrass, incriminate, and exhaust Betty’s mental fortitude. Luckily, Betty has a friend in Veronica who helps her along the way.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was the first writer I ever regularly read in an ongoing, for his 2003 Nightcrawler solo series, so I am pleased that he is not only a regular writer for Archie properties (like the amazing horror spin-offs I mentioned), but also for the CW show. He did not script this comic, but is credited with plotting the stories. They feel like they fit right into the show, so this was a very smart move to keep him so involved as Chief Creative Officer. Will Ewing and Michael Grassi, the respective writers of both stories, are excellent in giving the characters voice and keeping the events relatable to the show. Archie and Betty do the narration of their stories, with Cheryl supplying the secondary (and arguably unnecessary) narrative in “Bring It On”. As for the art, Joe Eisma pencils both stories, accompanied by the coloring of Andre Szymanowicz. They do a great job, but I did not like how Joe draws tiny pupils when his characters are surprised. He does it twice and it’s just too different from the normal aesthetic to flow with the rest of his work.

Overall. I’m giving this 4 Stars all around, with a solid showing from all creators in presenting this supplemental material in an enjoyable and relevant manner. I wasn’t blown away by any aspect of it, but I had nothing to be disappointed in. If you do not watch the show, this comic will give spoilers to that, but if you don’t care they are still fun to read. If you do watch the show, this will only add to your appreciation of what Aguirre-Sacasa is doing for the brand. Also, I know this may be a bit of a tangent, but if Riverdale lasts a while, I’d LOVE to see them incorporate his Afterlife with Archie series somehow, blending in Sabrina and Josie’s involvement. It would be epic, I promise you. Anyway, back to the comic. I may not read this every month, but because it is designed as plot filler for the shows, I’m confident that I could pick up an issue after missing one or two and not feel at a loss (granted I’m also watching the show). So grab a booth at Pop’s, order a burger, and crack open the first issue of Riverdale (Ongoing) #1 when it comes out March 29th.

Solid debut, 4 out of 5 Stars

Script: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Will Ewing, Michael Grassi
Art: Joe Eisma, Andre Szymanowicz, Janice Chiang, John Workman

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