It would be easy to write off "Archie" #9 -- and, to a certain extent, the series in general -- as a bit of a sitcom cliche. After all, Mark Waid and Veronica Fish's latest issue is the ultimate example of an upper class character being genuinely befuddled by how people in a lower class live their lives. Nevertheless, this issue and "Archie" in general succeed because there's a real heart to this comic.
It's easy to laugh at the fish out of water. With Veronica hanging out at the Andrews residence, that can mean Archie's parents being befuddled by Veronica's traditions and expectations, or Veronica not understanding how the non-fabulously-rich live. To be fair, Waid does play up some of that humor; there's Mr. Andrews drooling over the massive 160-inch television that Veronica brings into the house, or Mrs. Andrews being a little befuddled and surprised over the cooking and cleaning staff that have come to take care of things. Similarly, Veronica trying to find dessert spoons or wine glasses in this decidedly middle-class home is played up as a humorous moment. Together, they are pretty amusing.
What makes "Archie" #9 work so well is that it doesn't go down the path that, say, the title would have several decades ago. We don't conclude with Veronica storming back off to Lodge Manor unable to hack a simpler life. It's an easy out, but it's also a depiction that makes the character heartless. Veronica in particular has been portrayed as a real person in this "Archie" reboot, and that results in a surprisingly touching moment where Veronica tries to help Mrs. Andrews but finda herself unable to perform what seemed like a simple task at the grocery store. It's Veronica's near-breakdown that reminds us that Veronica is a person; she may be richer than all the readers of this review combined, but she clearly has feelings for Archie and wants to be accepted in general. That's why the Archie and Veronica romance works so well; it's not a one-sided affair with Archie mooning after a stereotypical ice queen.
Fish's art is enjoyable form start to finish. She really grabs the less dramatic moments -- Veronica peering into the silverware drawer, or a warm smile as Mrs. Andrews hands over a roll of paper towels -- and brings them some humanity. She also knows when to slightly exaggerate moments, like Veronica leaping into a hug with Mrs. Andrews even as Archie stares at the reader with a morose expression, priming us for what's about to happen. It's a nice moment of comedic timing and it continues onwards as Veronica's home invasion commences. Following Fiona Staples on "Archie" would have been a tough task for anyone, but Fish really has made the title her own thanks to her strong, attractive art.
"Archie" #9 reminds us why this title has transformed from something that most readers would easily dismiss into a must-read each issue. Following a great closing scene to remind us of Betty's place in Archie's life, I'm itching to read the next issue. If you haven't been reading "Archie" yet, give it a whirl, but be warned: you'll get hooked awfully fast, and that's a good thing.