March with Archie

Archie on guitar, Jughead on drums, Veronica on keyboard, Reggie on guitar, and Betty with bare feet on tamborines
Cover to The Archies: Greatest Hits © 2008 Archie Comic Publications.
Pencils, Inks: Dan DeCarlo. Colors: Tito Peña.

I never read Archie comics regularly, but my sister did, and there were plenty of
times where out of curiosity or lack of new reading material they made their way into my hands. As we got older and she largely dropped the habit, I’d still get her the occasional issue as a pick-me-up or when a special project came out. I’ve recently brought home five issues straight for myself, Archie #587-591, relating the eternal teenager’s “Freshman Year” at Riverdale High — with Betty and Veronica, et al., naturally along for the ride.

Archie kissing Veronica in close-up against Ben-Day turquoise background
Cover to Veronica #192 © 2009 Archie Comic Publications.
Pencils, Inks, Colors: Dan Parent.

That story is now being collected in a $10.95 softcover as Book One of The High-
School Chronicles
, scheduled for May release. If you’ve at any point enjoyed Archies you’ll likely get a kick out of the in-jokes and gentle continuity setting offered by writer Batton Lash, the creator of Supernatural Law and scribe of the infamous Archie
Meets The Punisher

Cover and Pg.1 [enlarge] of the Archie: Freshman Year TPB © 2008, 2009 Archie
Comic Publications.. Pencils: Bill Galvan. Inks: Bob Smith. Letters:
Jack Morelli. Colors: Tito Peña; Glenn Whitmore.

It opens on the gang regarding the high school with mixed emotions, and it’s compelling to see them bossed around by the kids who “own” tables at Pop’s Chok’lit Shoppe or falling into certain habits for the first time — you can think of this as the Casino Royale of the Archie Universe (except… not, really). New characters get introduced and the familiar ones are deftly handled, although I could have done without such Archie tropes as thinly veiled and poorly renamed references to the pop culture of the moment. For me the somewhat predictable overall story was less interesting than the grace notes — dialogue mentioning “pals ’n’ gals”; allusions to
Bob Bolling’s Little Archie stories, Pureheart the Powerful, and other spinoffs; and perhaps most obliquely the looming threat of Jughead’s family moving to Montana, a possible reference to Archie’s original artist — but then I’m a 38-year-old lover of comics history, presumably just a bonus slice of Archie’s target audience here.

Pg. 2 [enlarge] and Pgs. 3 [enlarge] of the Archie: Freshman Year TPB © 2009
Archie Comic Publications. Script: Batton Lash. Pencils: Bill Galvan. Inks:
Bob Smith. Letters: Jack Morelli. Colors: Glenn Whitmore.

Archie the company has been shaking things up a bit by redesigning logos, giving
Chuck a more prominent role, and introducing the so-called New Look stories. The latter are continued over several issues — still unusual for Archie, “Freshman Year” notwithstanding — and drawn in supposedly more realistic styles to generally horrendous effect. Comics stalwart Joe Staton, who co-created the deliciously offbeat
E-Man and has been a personal favorite penciling titles from Green Lantern to Scooby-Doo, teamed with journeyman Al Milgrom to render a bizarre take on Archie in the Jughead New Look story “The Matchmakers”.

Betty and Veronica posing in sleek black catsuits against swirling background
Cover to Betty & Veronica Spectacular #87 © 2009 Archie Comic
Publications. Pencils, Inks, Colors: Dan Parent.

Rich Burchett and Terry Austin’s work on the latest New Look story isn’t quite as jarring, and rather amusingly turns Veronica’s father into the spitting image of Burchett’s Commissioner Gordon in Batman Adventures. While it still feels unnecessary, Archie’s sales numbers may well prove me wrong from an economic standpoint. Purists can be thankful that Stan Goldberg, perhaps the gang’s most definitive artist next to the late Dan DeCarlo, remains near top form, and Dan Parent has been turning out nicely designed covers in the classic house style but infused with pop-art elements and pop-culture themes. Archie’s reprint program also offers collections of tales from yesterday.

Veronica and friends in loud 1980s fashions against black-and-white checkerboard pattern
Cover to Veronica #193 © 2009 Archie Comic Publications.
Pencils, Inks, Colors: Dan Parent.

Logos & characters TM/® and digital images courtesy Archie Comic Publications.

Related: Kids Meet Batton Lash 1953-2019 March April
with Archie
Rounds of the Night Table Teenage Dreams

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