REVIEW: Archie #14

The creative team on Archie has done the impossible. They have captured the essence of the high school experience in the new millennium and they achieved it without overbearing social commentary. This doesn’t read like an adult’s take on teenagers; it reads more like a teenage soap opera that could be playing out in high school hallways across the country.

Writing for teens is notoriously tricky. Play up the innocence too much and it comes off childish, overplay the seriousness and your writing adult situations in tiny bodies … the high wire act that it has to be performed to hit just the right notes to make a comic sound like an actual teen is daunting. By some miracle, or voodoo exorcism, or deal with the devil, Mark Waid has found the perfect voice for each Riverdale character and is writing the masterwork that Archie comics has been deserving for decades.

This comic falls into the teen drama category; right alongside TV shows like Dawson’s Creek, Beverly Hills 90210, One Tree Hill…etc. But in the same breath there is a comedic levity that harkens back to comedies like Friends and Buffy (without the vampires). The dialogue is sharp and witty, the jokes land, and the moments when the drama hits you can feel yourself tearing up. This is a writer at the top of his game, hitting the proverbial ball out of the park every month, on a title that no one expected to succeed.

In a previous review I wrote that I was not always fond of Archie. In fact, there was a time that I would have rather spit on an Archie comic than buy it. I hated “that little kid’s book”; I looked down my nose at anything that had the titular red-head on the cover. The opinion of my younger self was that Archie was for non-comic fans, people who wanted to read a funny book, but didn’t have the taste to discern what a real comic was.

This new offering of Archie has me converted. This is one of the best monthly titles on the shelves today. Period.

This particular issue reads as a light and airy comic that hits a couple of plot points, drops a couple visual jokes and then wraps up nicely. But if you look at the subtext that is just below the surface you are reading a story that grapples with a number of issues that face teens. Archie and Jughead start the issue discussing Jug’s lack of a smart phone. The main argument that Archie gives is that it helps him be a more responsible and scheduled adult. While Jughead says that he doesn’t want to be constantly mired down in social media and at the beck and call of the world, we are seeing two young adults beginning to grow in different directions. Jughead is becoming a carefree and irresponsible soul who doesn’t define himself through material processions and wealth; as where Archie wants to be a responsible young man who handles life with a natural grace … a grace that often eludes him. He wants to be successful; he wants to be a good friend, a good son, a good member of his community. He wants wealth and influence. He wants it all. It’s this over extension and eventual failure that leads to Archie doubting himself and his path in life.

Meanwhile Veronica is caught up in a game of one-upmanship at the boarding school that her father sent her to. She is locked in a battle of popularity and charisma with the catty and snarky Cherry Blossom. After Cherry’s actions in the last issue where she seriously embarrassed a fellow student, Veronica has decided that she needs to play dirty to fight back against this spoiled debutante. Using her wealth and influence to ostracize Cherry has now locked the two women into a collision course that I’m sure will not resolve anytime soon.

I can’t overstate just how good this comic is. From cover to cover this one is worth every cent you spend on it. Waid and his creative team have raised this book from the edges of obscurity and brought it back to the forefront for a whole new generation to discover. This may be the most successful relaunch I’ve read since Snyder and Capullo took over Batman.

Final Thought: This book is Aces. Buy it.

Final Grade: 5 stars

Story: Mark Waid
Art: Joe Eisma
Colors: Andre Szymanowicz
Letters: Jack Morelli
Publisher: Archie Comics

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