The success of the Archie revival has been on of the more surprising industry revelations of 2015. Despite the strong creative team of Mark Waid and Fiona Staples at the helm, very few predicted that it would engage audiences to the extent that it has. Thankfully, the series has found an audience and we can look forward to a number of spin-off series in the coming months. Issue 3 marks the end of the first story arc, the end of the dream team and the end of our suspense. Finally, after three issues of buildup, the elusive and infamous;Veronica Lodge makes her first substantial appearance.
In the aftermath of Archie’s comical destruction of the Lodge mansion, Veronica arrives at school and from that moment this is her issue. Archie is infatuated, Veronica represents the type of traditional concepts of femininity that Betty rejects. She is a vain, reality tv star obsessed with her looks and knows the power these things grant her within society. She begins as an unlikeable character because from early in the issue, she blackmails Archie into being her servant, threatening to expose his involvement with her mansion’s destruction. This is, in and of itself, could have proven problematic. It is potentially as harmful to vilify Veronica’s embracing of these qualities as it is beneficial to vindicate Betty’s choice to reject them. Initially, it’s seems as if Waid is setting up a clear anti-Veronica vibe within the book presenting her in the worst light.We’re made to feel like many of the characters, not to like her to see her as akin to a Kardashian; famous for being famous. This persists throughout the issue, only for the comic to turn against us, shining a mirror on the sort of extreme attitude that are often promulgated about celebrities. It challenges the reader for hating or loving someone without much cause, without truly understanding them. It criticises the attitudes that fuel the Hello magazines and TMZs of this world. There is some depth here and potential for further character development. In the hands of a skilled writer like Waid,Veronica may grow into a truly complex character beyond the diva she is presented . That being said, the character is the least endearing of the two principal female characters.Veronica represents that one person in your life who you know isn’t good for you, but whom you are mysteriously drawn to regardless. Jughead’s concern for his best friend is one we all share and have all had to combat at some point. On that note, Jughead continues to be delightful and remains the breakout character of the series. Indeed, in many ways, this has been Jughead’s book with the scene in the preview pages being a highlight of the series thus far. I can’t wait to see what Chip Zdarsky does with him when his solo series begins next week.
Fiona Staples’ interiors are, as ever, impeccable. They offer a vibrancy and energy that is unparalleled. The fluidity with which the panels flow from one to the next makes Archie a quick, but very enjoyable read. Her arts subsumes the reader, creating emotional ties with the characters with their feelings become our own. Unfortunately, this marks Staples’ last issue of Archie as her Saga duties resume in November. Her cover for the issue is also beautiful, a perfect representation of the stylish blend of the real and the caricature that she has brought to Archie. Staples will be sorely missed, but deserves a lot of credit for re-invigorating the Riverdale gang and creating a new norm for these characters. If anyone is deserving of an Eisner, its Fiona Staples. She is to be replaced by Annie Wu who will work on issues 4 and 5, with Veronica Fish taking over from issue 6 onwards. Archie Comics is to be commended, continuing the tradition of putting highly talented female artists on the book. This issue is a wonderful send-off for Staples, an artist who much like Ryan Steigman on Scarlet Spider, has left the series much too soon.
If you told me at the beginning of the year that Archie would be one of the best comics on the stands, I would surely have thought you were away with the fairies. Archie has proved is that a solid creative team with a passion for the characters can often be enough to support a book that would otherwise clog up the back issue bins for years to come. The industry will have to reevaluate its previous opinion on slice of life comedies. 2015 is the year of Archie and long may it continue.