“Archie” #2 demonstrates that lightning does indeed strike twice — at least in Riverdale. Fiona Staples and Mark Waid have put together a second relentlessly entertaining issue in their relaunch of the classic series. Full of hijinks and high school drama, issue #2 is a joyful, leisurely read. “Archie” pulls the reader into its close-knit world with clear, comic dialogue and readable, relatable art. This is just such a fun book.
Like its predecessors, the 2015 incarnation of “Archie” is unapologetic about its small-town subject. Issue #2 takes a loping walk through Riverdale, introducing more of its inhabitants and showcasing its minutiae for the reader. Archie’s problems — finding a job and repairing his car — are almost unbelievably mundane. When so many books are apocalyptic and catastrophic in scale, it’s refreshing to see a title revel in the small things. Waid also uses a mini-chapter format to hop between the different plotlines, creating the sense that this is a book about an entire town, not just Archie, Betty and Veronica. Each chapter reads like a slice of life, though they’re all related to the same set of conflicts, and many of Waid’s choices — like lingering on Jughead’s biography –speak to steady, conscious world building. Even Archie’s addresses to the reader give the sense that he’s merely a tour guide to a richer, wider world.
If the script of “Archie” seems built to celebrate life in an average town, Staples’ ebullient, expressive art accomplishes all that and more. She draws heaps of humor and drama from a sequence as simple as Betty’s attempt to get dolled up for her party. From the precariousness of strapping on heels to the snap rejection of Mom’s help, that sequence is full of relatable humor and empathy. Throughout the issue, the subject matter of “Archie” puts Staples’ eye for human expression and emotional detail to great work. Waid’s straightforward dialogue, effective on its own, gets heaped with additional character thanks to Staples’ thoughtful use of posture and gestures. (Admittedly, as typical as Riverdale is supposed to be, everyone looks gorgeous. I certainly never thought I’d find myself staring at Jughead’s cheekbones — but here we are.)
I associate a certain glossiness with Staples’ work based on my experience with “Saga,” but colorists Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn use a more washed, lived-in approach. As a result, Riverdale feels familiar and textured, and their approach gives the more frenzied comic scenes — like Archie setting ice cream on fire — a neat kinetic energy. The only sequence where I would have loved a few more shades or creativity was in the collapse at the construction site. The simple sky and brown wood looked a touch too static and, given Mr. Lodge’s oversized reaction, it would have been nice to see that hyperbole reflected in the collapse itself. Still, it’s a single scene in an approachable, attractive book.
Altogether, “Archie” #2 has so much going for it. Given the subject matter and pace, I don’t know if it will ever become a “must read” series, but I can already imagine how pleasant it would be to sit down with a big trade of this laid-back, lovely series.