Archie #8

In Mark Waid and Veronica Fish's "Archie" #8, Archie fights a powerful enemy: Hiram Lodge, Veronica's dad. Due to Mr. Lodge's influence, it's not an ordinary "keep away from my daughter" situation, seeing as Archie faces the prospect of being pulled out of Riverdale and spending at least a year in Singapore even as he grapples with a big moral dilemma. Despite the larger stakes, the storytelling feels more lightweight than in earlier issues.

Mr. Andrews, Archie's dad, gets more panel time than ever before. Fish's gestures and facial expressions build an impression quickly. Mr. Andrews' manic happiness is cute, and his hip shake when he announces his good news also broadcasts that he's a goofy, regular-guy kind of Dad, lovable and embarrassing at the same time. His relationship with Archie successfully sets up a foil to Mr. Lodge's relationship with Veronica.

Waid's dialogue has his typical grace and energy. Veronica's confrontation with her father has more tension than any of Archie's scenes, and the substance of her anger is relatable despite her spoilt antics and complaints. While the pet store scene is technically extraneous to the larger plot, it gives the couple a suitably hilarious breakup moment. The demeanor of Veronica's new cat and also the notion that Veronica needs to get a match for Archie's hair color are both so ridiculous that the pet shop sequence ends up being one of the stronger scenes. Betty's cameo later on is also welcome and true to her character, as she says some of the wisest words in the story.

Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn's colors are vivid and warm, with lots of unexpected and attractive hue choices and juxtapositions. They selectively fill in solid backgrounds with different colors to heighten emotion, like the shock of magenta for Veronica's anger and the sweet carnation pink for Veronica's parting peck on Archie's cheek. They use the technique sparingly, and that makes it effective.

Though the stakes are high, they don't feel high. "Archie" #8 is very Archie-centric and, unfortunately, the title character doesn't carry strong emotion as well as his supporting cast yet, particularly in comparison to the two girls. While he's likable, Archie's character development has been shallow; his romantic distress just isn't in the same league as Betty's regrets and sadness in "Archie" #5. There has even been some insight into Veronica's feelings for Archie -- freckles are great shorthand for what makes him special -- but there have been no analogous glimpses into Archie's heart. Archie cares for Veronica, obviously, but his feelings don't have the same resonance. Moping and slavish devotion are amusing, but they get old quickly and detract from true emotional depth.

Archie's possible separation from Jughead has more dramatic potential, but it's played entirely for humor. Jughead is a scene-stealer. His "Hey!" realization is funny, but Waid then sidelines Jughead for nothing. The resolution to the to-tell-or-not-to-tell dilemma is too pat. While the coincidence isn't overly far-fetched, the suspense never built and the climactic twist lacked oomph; it didn't feel earned. Fish's art for the bench scene is disappointing as well. She makes both the characters look too young, like they're in middle school instead of high school. Overall, her linework isn't as beautiful or as expressive as her earlier work on "Archie."

Characterization and emotional depth fight with the humor in "Archie" #8. The issue is still an enjoyable installment in a strong relaunch, but the story is not as sharply drawn and written -- or as touching -- as in previous issues.

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