Archie 1941 #1 review

What’s the matter with Archie? That’s the question everyone is asking in the first chapter of a mini-series that takes the Riverdale gang back to 1941 which, not coincidentally, is when Archie debuted in Pep Comics.

This isn’t a move back to the short and sweet gag strips of yore, though, it’s an altogether more serious affair. Writers Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn kick off their tale in May, with Archie, Jughead and co graduating high school.

This is a melancholy Archie, with him on the cusp of adulthood and the world on the verge of all-out war. What should be a great summer is lost, with Archie in almost a fugue state.

It’s almost as if he can sense that the world is changing for the worse, and even Riverdale won’t hold out, despite Betty’s insistence that everything will be OK.

I liked this issue a lot, though it gets off to a rocky start with a page that simply confuses me.

Is this the writers trying to lock the five-part mini-series into whatever passes for official Archie continuity by implying the Memory Lane alternate worlds device, which set up Paul Kupperberg’s excellent Life With Archie series, has been walked down? What’s all that business with cows and legacy?

Once we get into the story, though, things settle down nicely, with all the traditional characters in place. The only person departing from their classic mode is Archie’s seriously grumpy dad, but his mood helps the story along.

By the end of the issue Archie realises that continuing to wear his old Riverdale High shirt isn’t going to keep the wider world at bay – there’s a world war on and it’s time the US got involved.

Archie 1941 manages to be a serious, yet breezy, read all at once. Waid and Augustyn’s dialogue evokes what we pretend was a simpler time, while the art by illustrator Peter Krause and colourist Kelly Fitzpatrick is Saturday Evening Post naturalism that throws into relief the darkening tone. Nice Easter eggs include a box of Pep breakfast cereal and a copy of Jackpot comic, but the main event is the subtlety of expressions and body language.

With the likes of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Afterlife With Archie having fallen into mythical status, I’d be wary of recommending a new, supposedly monthly series from the same company, but with old comics pros Augustyn, Waid and Krause at the helm, no problem. If you’re a fan of Archie, Americana or just great comics, buy this book – from the gorgeous Art Deco logo (likely by excellent letterer Jack Morelli) to the Next Issue plugs, it’s pure enjoyment.

2 thoughts on “Archie 1941 #1 review

  1. I’m looking forward to this book, but I think I’m going to hold off on print, and wait until the title gets discounted on Comixology. Money being what it is. (“Everybody wants money. That’s why they call it MONEY.” — Danny DeVito in David Mamet’s “Heist.”)

    But regardless, I think I can help you out on the legacy/cow thing. The cow getting loose was likely because of a prank of Jughead’s. it follows from a discussion of Archie (inadvertently, one supposes) setting Mr. Weatherbee’s car on fire. So Jug is just thinking back at the laughs and the crazy times they’ve had in high school. Those memories are his idea of legacy. Archie, looking at the football photo, thinks of his career lettering on the football team as his legacy. Which is probably how most kids his age see it…but I think time will bear Jughead out more than Arch.

    There’s a Word Balloon interview with Mark Waid where he talks about this series, and that Brian Augustyn did a lot of the heavy lifting on the research side. I can’t remember what, but there was a crucial incident that Waid had initially planned for the series that had to be completely rewritten because Augustyn discovered it wouldn’t happen until a few years after the story takes place. The whole interview is worth listening to — and a great reminder that it’s good to have collaborators you can count on, even if it means more work in the sort run.

    Like

    1. Oh thanks, I’ve not heard that episode, and I do subscribe!

      I was assuming the incidents with Jughead were from the comics, but it seems deeply weird for teenagers to be thinking about legacy! But you must be correct.

      Like

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