Archie Freshman Year Book 2 Trade Paperback Review

Today, Archie Comics is releasing the trade paperback of the sequel to Archie Comics' Freshman Year, which was a tale by writer Batton Lash and artists Bill Galvan and Al Milgrom that told the story of, well, Archie's freshman year (and therefore, of Jughead, Betty, Veronica and Reggie's freshman year, as well).

Since Lash told such a complete story the first time around, I was really curious as to how he would be able to do a sequel to the story. And I think that this tale is really worth spotlighting just because of how hard of a storytelling angle this was. If you've written a complete story, how do you then come back and do the "missing chapters" without it being hopelessly hokey? Lash succeeds by using a novel approach to the story - it is not an actual narrative. Instead, it is five separate stories that all just happen to involve, as part of their plot, a character thinking back to his/her freshman year of high school (there's ostensibly a framing device, but it really doesn't matter). It works really well and it therefore avoids the whole problem of "if this story was so interesting, why wasn't it in the first take of the story?"

First we see what happened to Jughead during the short period of time his family moved to Montana...

Jughead eventually meets a girl who he feels a lot differently towards than most girls he knows. But in opening himself up to her, he ends up opening her eyes up to the idea of a romance between her longtime male best friend. It's strong stuff - Lash gets a lot of character development done in one story

The next story provides the best reason for the characters in the present to look into the past, as a video Betty and Veronica did in Freshman year pops up on YouTube and becomes a viral sensation...

So naturally, they think back to how they made the video originally.

A character introduced in that issue, George "Angle" (he is always "working the angle") is an important aspect of the next story, which spotlights Reggie. First we see Reggie as his normal self, but then he gets a phone call from his father where he learns that his father's paper is hiring someone Reggie used to know...

We flash back to freshman year and see how Angle and other seniors at Riverdale High took advantage of Reggie's desire to be liked by the "cool kids." It was cool to see a different side of Reggie.

The next story is the one most set during the "present," as it shows Chuck's past as a comic book artist coming back to perhaps haunt him. After he wins a prize for cartooning...

Chuck learns that a former Riverdale student who has now become a tough guy rapper (60 Cent, wokka wokka) is looking for Chuck because of his habit of making comics about people he met in school. So Chuck, concerned that 60 Cent wants to harm him, goes to different people to ask about comics he made about them in the past to see if he ever offended 60 Cent. The resolution was handled really well.

Finally, the return trip to the past conclude with a spotlight on the "breakout character" of the original Freshman Year, the skater dude, Pencilneck G!

Lash gets good mileage later in the story about the notion of the whole other world of stories going on on the OTHER side of campus, where Pencilneck G and his friends have been hanging out these past few years. After all, you didn't think that every interesting thing in Riverdale just happened to Archie and his small group of friends, did you?

Galvan and Milgrom do a solid job on the artwork.

All told, this was an inventive way to take another look back at the first enjoyable Freshman Year stories, and Lash really got the most out of a concept that could have come off as stretching the initial concept too thin.


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