Archive for life with archie

2013 YiR: My 10 Favorite Comic Series

Posted in 2013 year in review, book review, comic books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2014 by vagabondsaint

And now, my 10 favourite comic series of 2013, presented in no particular order (except #1):

#10. Batwoman (until #25)

Batwoman #17 cover by J.H. Williams III

I’ve already discussed how badly DC ruined Batwoman by losing the creative team of W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III, so there’s no need to rehash that here. I will just say that, while I’m not trying to hate on the current creative team of Marc Andreyko and Trevor McCarthy, they’re just not as good as Blackman and Williams were.  Nowhere near it, and McCarthy’s attempts to give us a little Williams-esque work with flowing, irregular panels and unusual perspectives just makes me miss Williams more.  But the book was great before #25, so it’s on this list.

#9. Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman #20 cover by Cliff Chiang

Brian Azzarello is just not a superhero writer.  His work on the crime noir epic 100 Bullets was fantastic, of course, and his run on Hellblazer got me back into liking John Constantine (before DC ruined Constantine in the New 52), but his Batman and Superman stories were less brilliant (though the Batman stories are pretty good).  His dirty, gritty, morally-grey, doublespeak style just isn’t  suited to the brightly-colored, black-and-white morality of the spandex set, and that’s okay.

When it was announced that he was going to be writing Wonder Woman in the New 52, I was skeptical. Even with artist Cliff Chiang (whom I’ve loved since the Beware the Creeper mini-series – pick it up if you can find it), I didn’t think Azzarello could pull it off.  How could he? He’s just not a superhero guy!

Apparently Brian Azzarello knew that too, because Wonder Woman is not a superhero comic book. Yes, it stars Wonder Woman, of course, but if you’re expecting big fights against supervillains in colorful costumes and an arc of morality tales every 4 to 6 issues, you’re in for a delightful disappointment.

Instead, Azzarello made Wonder Woman into what basically amounts to a family squabble writ large – writ as large as possible, really, since the family involved is the pantheon of Greek Gods.  In its 30 issues so far, there hasn’t been a hint of anything like a supervillain appearing, just gods pissed off at each other over things that would land normal humans on a week-long episode of Jerry Springer.

And it works.

Kudos to Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang for making a book starring a superhero into a brilliant mythological journey, where the gods are every bit as petty, vain, short-sighted, conflict-laden, and selfish as the humans that are supposed to worship them.  I’ll be sad when their run ends this year.

#8. Superior Spider-Man

Superior Spider-Man #22 cover by Guiseppe Camuncoli

You should be reading this comic.  Why are you not reading this?  Hurry up before Peter Parker comes back!

Long story short: Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus, swapped minds with Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, and let his own body die with Parker still inside it.  Since then, Otto has been determined to be a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever was, and oh boy, has he done it! He’s much more creative with using his powers, he’s become proactive against villains like the Kingpin, and he;s basically been kicking ass.  Go read this comic before Peter Parker comes back in a couple months.  Otto’s adventures have been hilarious.

And speaking of hilarious comics. . .

#7. Superior Foes of Spider-Man

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #7 cover by In-hyuk Lee

Boomerang.  The Shocker.  Speed Demon. The new Beetle. Overdrive.  These five has-been H-list villains have united to form the new SINISTER SIX! (And yes, they know there are only five.)

Actually, they got together because Boomerang promised them an easy score: procuring the cybernetic, still-living head of former crime boss Silvermane, reportedly lost when his cyborg body was destroyed.  Of course, Boomerang lied and double-crossed them, but how and why he did so makes for a great, highly entertaining read.

Writer Nick Spencer (who you will see again on my list of least-favorite series of 2013) has made these characters totally believable.  They went from Spider-Man punchlines to lovable-loser-type punchlines in their own book. I can’t say much more without spoilers, but trust me, this series is worth the read!

#6 : Transformers: Robots In Disguise and Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye

Transformers: Robots In Disguise #18 cover by Atilio Rojo & Casey Coller

Yes, I’m lumping these two together because they’re closely related (events in one affect events in the other) and they end up virtually combining for the their big Dark Cybertron crossover at the end of the year.

Transformers: RiD chronicles the adventures of the Transformers on Cybertron.  The War is over, and the planet is now led by a coalition government consisting of Bumblebee for the Autobots, Starscream for the Decepticons, and Metalhawk for those who did not choose a side in the war.  Meanwhile, Transformers: MTMTE follows the adventures of Rodimus (once Rodimus Prime) as he leads a group of Autobots through space, in search of the legendary Knights of Cybertron.

Notice what’s missing? HUMANS!

There are NO HUMAN BEINGS in these comics! That’s why these are my favorite Transformers comic series ever! Without people to constantly save and/or menace, the Transformers themselves have become much more human and much, much more relateable. They have been since the beginning, and this year they continued the trend with fun, occasionally dark stories leading up to one of the most organic-feeling crossovers I’ve ever read.  It felt like it flowed naturally from the stories, like they’d planned the whole thing from the beginning. . .but nobody does that, so that can’t possibly be the case.  Anyway, good stuff for Transformers/giant robots/good comics fans!

#5. Afterlife with Archie

Afterlife With Archie #2 cover by Francesco Francavilla

 

Starting in October, this series just barely made it into the 2013 list. . .but 2013 was a year that saved the best for last (the #3 book on this list also started around the same time and only got 2 issues in before the end of the year)!

Possibly the most unexpected Archie comic since 1994’s The Punisher Meets ArchieAfterlife with Archie is the brainchild of writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (who also adapted Stephen King’s The Stand for Marvel Comics) and artist Francesco Francavilla. In this series, the zombie apocalypse begins in Riverdale!

Without giving away too much, it goes like this: Reggie accidentally runs over and kills Jughead’s pet Hot Dog, then flees from the accident scene without telling anyone.  A grieving Jughead takes his dog to Sabrina (the teenage witch), who brings it back to life – but as a Pet Sematary-style creature that bits Jughead and. . .well, things go zombie from there pretty quick. And before you think I spoiled anything for you, let me tell you: that all happens in the first issue.  Things get considerably stranger from there!

One longtime character reveals their real sexual orientation, some siblings reveal their Lannister-like relationship, lots of familiar characters become zombies – and they’re just on issue 4!  It’s like Aguirre-Sacasa goes into writing every issue wondering how he can make it more of a mindf*** than the last one, and oh wow he succeeds every time!

If there is any must-read book on this list, I’m completely failing because they should ALL be must-reads.  But if you only choose one to just check out, make it this one.  It is a horror book, so I know it’s not for everyone, but if you’ve ever been an Archie fan, or thought Archie comics couldn’t be dark, moody, and exciting, read this book!

I should also note that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was named last month as Archie Comics’ first-ever Chief Creative Officer, and immediately tapped Lena Dunham (creator/writer of HBO’s series Girls) to write a miniseries for Archie Comics.  If he gets the whole company moving in the directions he wants, maybe next year they’ll be my Publisher of the Year, instead of just being 2013’s runner-up (that’ll be in a later post).

#4: Life with Archie

Life With Archie #27 "Grill of Thrones" variant cover by Mike Norton

This might be my favorite cover of the year. . .

I have never made a secret of my love for this book, and 2013 gave me no reasons to stop loving it.

If you’re not familiar with Life With Archie, I’ll give you the basics: every issue is split into two stories.  One story follows a future timeline in which Archie married Betty; the other follows a timeline in which Archie married Veronica. Hijinks and the best soap opera ever committed to the comics page ensue.

LWA already made headlines with the marriage of Kevin Keller to his boyfriend Clay Walker in #16 (which is going for about $35 on Ebay in excellent condition) and its willingness to address social issues in 2012. So what happened in 2013?

Well, in Archie Marries Veronica: Veronica and Archie have left Lodge Industries only to have their careers manipulated unknowingly by Lodge’s rival Fred Mirth, Kevin Keller ran for a US Senate seat with Veronica’s help, reality-show star Reggie gets talked into causing fights with his girlfriend Betty to increase ratings (nice commentary on “reality” TV there, writer Paul Kupperberg!), and Veronica gets framed for corruption!

In Archie Marries Betty: Betty’s successes at work make Archie jealous, Veronica helps Cheryl Blossom start a breast cancer foundation, Jughead has to deal with his sister Jellybean’s shady new boyfriend and Midge’s difficult pregnancy, Reggie’s dad is trying to recover from a heart attack, Reggie runs ragged trying to take his dad’s place at the Riverdale Gazette, and Veronica is running Kevin Keller’s Senate campaign, which Reggie is hesitant to endorse, and Mr. Weatherbee is trying to find new love after the death of Mrs. Grundy!

It’s still a fun, occasionally sad, book. . .but it will also be ending this year with #36, so once that happens, you’ve no excuse for not giving it a read!

#3. A Voice In The Dark

A Voice in the Dark #1 cover by Larime Taylor

 

 

A Voice in the Dark also started late in the year, but it jumped right out of the gate and onto this list in much the same way that Afterlife With Archie did.

Why?

First of all, bi-racial female protagonist. From Seattle.  So, right out of the box we’ve got a decidedly atypical protagonist.

Second, the protagonist is a murderer. I’m not spoiling anything here; she says it pretty quick in the first issue.

But instead of being about her killing more peoplethis story is about her struggling with dark urge to kill as she deals with the normal frustrations that all of us encounter – up to and including stupid people.  How would your daily interactions change if you knew you could kill someone and probably get away with it?

When our protagonist Zoey (extra points for not giving the bi-racial protagonist a stereotypical name) starts college in a small California town, she decides to start a college radio call-in show. Her format is that people can call in anonymously and discuss their darker, deepest, most hidden thoughts and desires. It goes horribly wrong with the very first call.

Also, this small California town has a serial killer of its own – so what’s going to happen when they meet?

A Voice in the Dark is a well-written and beautifully-illustrated book (also unusually-illustrated, but I’m not going to tell you how), and is pleasantly grounded in reality.  It intrigued me from the very first issue and has kept me there. . .so much so that I buy an extra copy of issues for a friend to read!

#2. Sex Criminals

COVER OF THE YEAR! Sex Criminals #1 cover by Chip Zdarsky and Matt Fraction

COVER OF THE YEAR! Note that this is the cover of the FOURTH printing of #1. A sixth and possibly final printing came out last month.

 

Yeah, I’m on the Sex Criminals bandwagon. I bought the first printing of the first issue, then bought the fourth printing because just look at that awesome cover.

Sex Criminals is about Suze, a woman who discovers that time stops when she has an orgasm, leaving only her unaffected.  When she meets a man with the same amazing ability, hilarity and hijinks ensue.

My favourite quotes from issue 1:

“So I did what any otherwise good, emotionally-frozen, role model-less girl would do the day after rubbing one out the first time.”

“come to our awesome PARTY where for 5 BUCKS you can DRINK while SAVING BOOKS from destruction at the hands of the S***HEAD BANK that foreclosed the library oops sorry I didn’t mean to write the word S***HEAD on a PUBLIC POSTER”

“This book is dedicated to the brave men and women who love 2 f***”

Yes, this IS a mature readers title. It’s a coming (ha!) of age story, it’s a crime saga, it’s a love story, it’s hilarious.  The best part of the book is when Young Suze is forced to go to the “Dirty Girls” at school for advice on sex.  What follows is a montage of (hopefully) made-up sexual positions with hilarious names like “twerging,” “brimping,” and “auto-erotic twerging.” No way in hell I’m showing the images here.  If Chip Zdarsky wants me to, he can draw them up and send them to me.

The second issue is where the book really takes off, with the first Sex Criminals letter column!  My favorite quotes from that:

“EGGS. EGGS IS MY PROBLEM.”

“HI DANIEL YOU SOUND SEXXXXY.”

“Thanks for writing and KEEP ON RUBBIN'”

Those were the safest things I could say without needing a ton of asterisks.

Anyway, go read Sex Criminals, if you’re mature enough, and can handle sex and crime and funny.

#1. Saga

Saga

 

Yep, another immensely popular comic book.  My shop-owning friend literally cannot keep copies of the Saga trades in his shop.  When the third trade came out last month, he ordered 35 copies and took barely a week to sell them all.  That only sounds low if you don’t live in Seattle, where there is a comic book shop every 3 miles. In a really saturated market, that’s a lot.

But Saga, unlike, say, Fifty Shades of S***ty Erotic Writing or Twilight, is actually good.  Brian K. Vaughan has crafted a well-written sci-fi story of forbidden, unlikely lovers on the run from both sides of an interplanetary war.

Wow, that was actually a really good summation.

Of course, Vaughan’s writing isn’t the only reason to read this book. Fiona Staples’ art is just so beautiful.  She captures expressions and body language perfectly.  Her characters are detailed and lush, even when you wish they weren’t (Chapter Seven), and her aliens are fascinating xenobiological forms.

Look, I could natter on and on and on about Saga (especially considering that my favorite comics moment of 2013 happens in it).

But really, I’d just rather you went out and bought the first trade and read it.  Seriously, this book has a legion of fans for one reason and one reason only: it’s a damn good book.

In fact, it’s my #1 favorite comic of 2013!

VS – 4.22.14

Life With Archie: The Bravest Comic On The Stands?

Posted in book review, brilliance, comic books, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2013 by vagabondsaint

AUTHOR’S NOTE: When I posted my last entry (Unhappy Trails:  A Farewell To “Scalped”, 12/13/12), I also had this entry in mind and had, in fact, planned to write it that night.  However, by the time I finished that entry, it was 4 AM, I was tired, and decided instead to write this article the next day.  That next day, I didn’t wake up until after noon Pacific Time.  As a matter of habit, one of the first things I do after waking up is read online news, and after reading of the events of December 14, 2012, I decided to delay this post. I think it’s been long enough now.

I’m going to go ahead and say this:  Life With Archie is the bravest comic book on the stands today.

Why, you ask?

Because they’re not afraid to take a stand on issues.

Take, for example, marriage equality.  (I don’t call it “gay marriage” because that implies an explicit difference between “straight marriage” and other types of marriage, and since all marriage is two people that love each other making a public, legal commitment to each other, I see no need for the distinction.)

Gay characters are not new to comics.  Underground comics have had homosexual acts and characters depicted since the late ’60s. . .but of course, that’s the underground stuff, and who pays attention to that?  Mainstream comics publishers largely ignored homosexual characters until the 1980s, when DC published their first obviously gay character, Extrano (“strange” in Spanish) for the mercifully short-lived series The New Guardians in 1987.  The biggest reveal, however, was that Marvel’s character Northstar, longtime member of the Canadian super-team Alpha Flight, was gay (because he’s already French-Canadian, so why not make him gay?), though his creator revealed later that he was supposed to have been gay from his first appearance in 1979 but wasn’t due to an anti-gay character policy at Marvel Comics.

After that, gay and bisexual characters fell out of the woodwork.  The Authority’s  Apollo and Midnighter were the world’s finest gay couple; Gotham City detective Renee Montoya, a major supporting Batman character, was outed as a lesbian by Two-Face; John Constantine of Hellblazer was revealed to be bisexual (though he mostly sleeps with women and is married to a woman);  Hulkling and Wiccan of The Young Avengers were a gay couple; the new Batwoman is a lesbian; and in revising their entire universe, DC Comics made Alan Scott, the Green Lantern of Earth-Two  gay (sorry, Jade and Obsidian, the guy who was your dad pre-revision is now gay, so I guess you won’t be coming back for the New 52). . .the list goes on and on.  By 2010, you wouldn’t think a gay character would make news anymore.

But it did, when Archie Comics, long thought of as the most traditional, wholesome, conservative, “safe” comics company out there, introduced an openly gay character named Kevin Keller in Veronica #202.  It made news worldwide that gay had finally come to Riverdale, and at that point, it was a surprising move but not exactly a groundbreaking one.

Until February 2012, when, in the pages of Life With Archie, Kevin Keller married his boyfriend, Dr. Clay Walker.  Gay kissing was still new to comics then; longtime homosexual Northstar had just finally kissed his boyfriend on-panel the year before (after almost 20 years of being out of the closet); although The Midnighter and Apollo had been shown kissing before then, Neil Gaiman had been exploring gay and transgender themes in Sandman, and John Constantine had been in several homosexual sex scenes, they weren’t as mainstream and being written by mostly British writers besides.  At that point, marriage equality was only the law of the land in six states and the District of Columbia, with many many more states having laws on the books specifically preventing same-sex couple from getting married, so it was a pretty bold move for “traditional, wholesome” Archie Comics to make at the time.

Just to add a little more controversy to Kevin and Clay, their story was that they met in the military, when Kevin was injured fighting in Iraq and Dr. Walker had been his medic. . .and this was just after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Archie Comics wasted no time jumping on that subject, and the issue containing the wedding (#16, if you want it; it sells for $20-$40 now) of Keller and Walker became one of Archie Comics’ fastest-selling issues of all time (which is no mean feat, considering they’ve been going for over 70 years).

But that’s not why I call Life With Archie the bravest book on the stands.

(SPOILERS FOLLOW.)

In issue #22 of Life With Archie, Clay Walker is shot while attempting to prevent a robbery. (Had to be the black guy, didn’t it, Archie Comics?) Luckily, he survives the shooting and the would-be robber is captured after being clocked with a hammer by the store’s owner.

In issue #24, Kevin discovers that the unnamed shooter was a previously-convicted felon who bought the gun from a licensed dealer through a “loophole” (it’s later stated that he’s talking about the gun show loophole).  Kevin then rattles off a few statistics (“gun-related homicides are more than twenty times higher than in other developed nations”) and announces he is retiring from the Army to do something about it. . .and his “something” is. . .

Wait for it. . .

Kevin Keller decides to run for the US Senate on a gun-control platform!

Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) just proved in November that an openly-gay candidate can win a Senate race; she became our first openly-gay US Senator and was sworn in on Thursday, January 3, 2013.  So you could say the precedent has been broken. . .except that #24 came out in November and was solicited three months earlier (as all comics are), so the story was written before her election, when she was still running a very tight race against Tommy “I’m gonna kill me some Medicare” Thompson.  (It’s worth noting that Tammy Baldwin still can’t legally marry in her home state, though she can have her same-sex marriage from another state recognized in Wisconsin as a “domestic partnership,” so Kevin Keller’s still got one up on her.)

In issue #25, Kevin expounds more upon his gun-control views, states a strong view that the Second Amendment pertains to the right to bear arms for “a well-regulated militia” and asks “why do we need an estimated 200 million guns in the hands of this country’s 300 million citizens?”  (His number is actually quite low; the 2007 estimates are 88.1 guns for every 100 US citizen,which comes out to about 274 million guns in this country, a figure that has no doubt gone up, since there were massive spikes in gun sales every time a black guy got elected President.)

Now, I am sure that some of you are saying that it’s not such a big deal to jump on the gun-control bandwagon now, after what happened in Newtown.  You’d be right; that terrible tragedy has changed a lot of views on gun control for many people, as it and numerous other tragedies before it should have done.

And I’d agree if it wasn’t that Life With Archie #24 came out in November 2012, and #25 hit the stands (and my greedy little palms) on Wednesday, December 12, 2012. . .two days before Newtown.

And that’s why I call Life With Archie the bravest comic book on the stands today:  it took on marriage equality before the 2012 electoral sweep that nearly doubled the number of states with legalized marriage equality with a firm, unmistakable statement of support; it took a strong pro-gun-control stance before the tragedy that catapulted gun control back into the national conversation; and it’s poised to do even more with Betty-and-Veronica rival Cheryl Blossom having been ravaged by breast cancer and now starting up her own foundation to fight breast cancer.

I never thought I’d say this, but here it is:  I wish Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image Comics, and IDW had half the intestinal fortitude that Archie Comics does when it comes to addressing relevant social issues.

Life With Archie: the best-written and bravest comic book on the stands today.  Go read it, it’s brilliant.

VS – 1.6.13

The Best Book You’re Probably Not Reading, #1

Posted in brilliance, comic books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2010 by vagabondsaint

If you’re like me, or millions of other people out there, you probably spent at least a little bit of your childhood reading Archie comics.  Archie, for the 6 people out there who have no idea who I am talking about, is the red-headed all-American caucasian teenager growing up in the all-American small town of Riverdale, umm, Riverdale. . .okay, it’s never actually said what state Riverdale is in, but I’m gonna guess it’s not far from Springfield, where The Simpsons live, and only a couple hours west of Gotham City.  Hope that helps.  Anyway, Archie Andrews is has been in high school forever and is perpetually trapped in a love triangle between two unreasonably attractive women:  blond, girl-next-door-type beauty Betty Cooper, and rich-girl princess Veronica Lodge.  The comics have always been compilations of vignettes about his adventures with his best friend Jughead, romantic rival Reggie, and peripheral characters like ill-tempered and highly jealous Moose, Moose’s girlfriend Midge, Sabrina the Teenage Witch (yes, the one played by Melissa Joan Hart in the ’90s TV series), L’il Ambrose, supergenius Dilton, soda shop owner Pop Tate, and Chuck and Nancy, apparently the only people of colour that live in Riverdale.  The stories are always pretty basic, humourous, and the end of each story usually returned things to the status quo.

In case that got boring, though, there were always the spy stories of Archie as “The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.”, Archie as superhero Pureheart the Powerful, The Mighty Archie Art players taking on Shakespeare and various other plays with a humourous take, et cetera. . .there were many variations of the character, but one thing remained constant: nobody ever grew up, nothing really ever changed.  Archie and friends never graduated, the 50s-style soda shop they frequented never closed down. . .in short, nothing real ever happened, and the comics were kept strictly divorced from whatever was going on in the real world.

Growing up, you probably read a little of these comics, maybe a lot.  But then you started changing, and Archie and company didn’t.  You sprouted hair in odd places and got funny feelings whenever non-familial members of the opposite sex (or, for some of you, the same sex) were around.  Archie never seemed to experience these things.  You had to start wearing deodorant; Archie never seemed to have body odor issues.  You faced all the myriad dramas of high school and found they didn’t end after five pages; Archie always had his problems solved in usually less than that and everything was cool again.  Archie never got drunk or hacked his lungs out trying to smoke a cigarette because he thought it would make him look cool.  Archie was only broke when it was funny; you learned the hard way it’s never funny to be broke.

In short, you grew up.  Archie and his friends did not.

So you left them behind, probably without even so much as a wave.  that’s how it’s been for the past 60 or so years of Archie:  he never changes.

Until this year.

Earlier this year, Archie comics ran a six-issue miniseries in the pages of Archie called “Archie Marries Betty/Archie Marries Veronica,” in which Archie walks down a strange path and is shown a future in which he married Veronica.  After three issues of that, Archie walks back down the path, takes a different fork, and is shown a future in which he married Betty instead. (I haven’t read this story yet, but I may buy the trade paperback when it comes out.)  It was a well-received story that got a lot of media coverage, but ultimately, it wasn’t real and Archie comics went back to their static world.

Sometime between then and now, Archie had his first interracial relationship with Nancy (there really weren’t any other black people in town besides Chuck, and I don’t think comic readers are ready for Archie to go black and bi at the same time), which was a bit of a long-overdue shock, but also a sign that maybe Archie’s world was opening up to the changing face of America and different societal attitudes towards interracial relationships.  It’s not much of a step for ward for Archie – really, that’s just taking him from the 50s to the 70s – but it’s a step nonetheless.

After that, someone had the idea to introduce a gay character to Archie’s world (the first openly gay character; Pop Tate’s always been in the closet), and so, that happened this year, a sign that Riverdale is becoming more diverse (and more fabulous!)  That was pretty recent, so we’ll see how that goes over with Archie’s fan base, most of whom may be asking their parents some uncomfortable questions soon. (To be fair, I did have some people that don’t normally buy Archie comics buy the issue debuting the new gay character.  I hope they do right by those new fans.)

And finally, someone at Archie Comics Publications headquarters said, “Hey, what if we kept telling the story of Archie being married, in two separate stories?  And we made it a lot like a soap opera?  And Mr. Lodge, Veronica’s dad, was a prick in both worlds?”

Ergo, Life with Archie: The Married Life, the best book you’re probably not reading.  In Life with Archie, Archie has finally followed you into adulthood. . .and found that life sucks.

Life with Archie contains two serial stories: one of Archie’s life being married to Veronica, one in which he is married to Betty.  While you might think this is the same thing as the miniseries I mentioned before, there is a difference, one I won’t discuss here so as not to give out spoilers.

To not give away too much, Life with Archie is the BESTEST MOST AWESOME ARCHIE BOOK I’VE EVER READ. This is a more mature book, though minus the more mature language and sex, keeping it still safe for more mature kids.

In the first serial story, Archie’s married to Veronica, wealthy, and unhappy – his wife is his boss and too busy with work and her father to pay much attention to him, he’s in charge of ruining the soda shop so Mr. Lodge can buy it cheap, his best friend won’t talk to him, and there’s nothing he can do about it.  His friends aren’t doing much better:  Midge left Moose because of his temper and jealousy, Jughead is fighting a losing battle to keep the soda shop afloat, Reggie works for Veronica and hates it, Betty is lonely and miserable, Dilton has mysteriously disappeared, and Mr. Lodge is secretly buying up the city as fast as he can to put up shopping malls and condos (okay, that part kind of has a populist-leaning edge to it – the wealthy millionaire as greedy, heartless money-grubbing developer – that’s all too close to the real world; if you live in Seattle or most other major cities you know exactly what I’m talking about). . .this is not the happy and unchanging rainbow-laden Riverdale you remember.  It’s roughly 3 million times better.  Yes, it’s a fresh coat of soap-opera paint on old Riverdale, but Archie wears it so well that you won’t care.

Between the two stories lies a vale of ‘tween-age crap that you’re better off skipping over and forgetting you ever saw.

In the second story, Archie marries Betty and is. . .also miserable.  He’s just miserable and poor, which is always worse than being miserable and rich.  Archie and Betty have moved to New York, so that Betty can work in the fashion world and Archie can make a go of his music career. . .which of course didn’t happen.  Archie can’t get decent gigs to save his life, and Betty, who works at Sacks 6th Avenue, has to take a pay cut in order to keep her job, when her earnings already were barely keeping them afloat.  Back in Riverdale, Jughead is having a hard time keeping the soda shop afloat, Moose has been dumped but he’s not ready to let Midge go yet, Reggie’s broke and unemployed, Chuck and Nancy are encountering difficulties in keeping their comic book shop going, and their old high shcool teacher Mrs. Grundy is dying of cancer, a revelation that causes the principal to propose to her. . .and Dilton has mysteriously vanished while studying parallel universes.

And that’s all in the first issue.

The second issue of Life with Archie is filled with even more twists and catches; there’s a happy scene in the “Archie Marries Betty” side that seems great. . .until the next page makes you realize that lifting your arms to cheer good news only makes it easier to get punched in the gut by bad news.

As Bill Ellis (one of my English professors) would say, “It’s good stuff!

And indeed it is.  It’s so good, in fact, that I was interrupted while raving about it to a customer in the shop I work in by another customer who said, “I’m sorry, I know you weren’t talking to me, but you just totally sold me on that book.  Where is it?”

If you have any fondness at all for Archie and his friends, you have to read Life with Archie.  You owe it to yourself to see how well Archie has grown up, and how fascinating this trip into soap-opera real-life drama is.

If you don’t have any fondness for Archie, read it anyway.  It’s solidly-written and drawn in an art style that’s a beautiful homage to the late, great, definitive-yet-tragically-underappreciated Archie Comics artist, Dan DeCarlo.

Basically, go buy the book.  Now.  It’s worth it.

VS – 9.11.10