It’s been a while since Josie and the Pussycats got much attention, but — after Archie Comics introduced them as a trio of vampires in “Afterlife with Archie” #10 — they’re back under the spotlight, albeit for a more traditional reimagining. In keeping with the publisher’s other modernized relaunches, Marguerite Bennett, Cameron DeOrdio and Audrey Mok’s “Josie and the Pussycats” #1 falls right in line with the spirit of the other titles; the characters feel like natural, stylish extensions of their traditional incarnations, yet remain true to their long-established personalities.
The original Archie house style comfortably dominated the look of the entire Archie cast for decades, so the publisher has faced the same challenge for every one of its character revamps: to come up with a distinct style for each, while keeping them all tied together and recognizable. Like other artists have done for the new “Archie,” “Jughead” and “Betty and Veronica,” Mok comes up with her own unique, modernized look for Josie, Valerie, Melody and the rest of the cast. Mok balances a simple, traditional style with a touch of inspiration from manga, inventing a new look that evolves the classic design without abandoning it completely.
Bennett and DeOrdio waste no time efficiently establishing Josie as a moderately-talented, motivated yet unconfident leader, before quickly introducing Alexandra as her distasteful foil. Alexandra — with her trademark skunk-like mane de-emphasized, but present nonetheless — is as easy to root against as ever; when her first scheme to discredit Josie backfires, the satisfaction in her failure is just as sweet.
Melody is just as well-characterized as a busy and talented but reluctant jet-setter and unabashed animal lover, while Valerie is clearly the most talented and confident of the group. The writers even establish a role for Pepper, the forgotten fourth Pussycat, a character eventually written out of the original franchise. With their forces combined, Bennett and DeOrdio set up a fully fleshed out cast of characters and sell the idea that this reimagined rock band from Riverdale can carry a series — the first since a short-lived attempt over two decades ago.
The writers also fill the entirety of the issue with sharp, witty dialogue. What’s more, their attention to interaction drives the comic as soon as the characters and personalities are developed. Bennett and DeOrdio don’t try to make their creations sound trendy or hip; rather, they comes across as natural and intelligent. Characters like the diabolical Alexandra or the ever-caring Melody could have easily been defined by singular traits, but — through their words and actions — they have far more depth.
Like the new kid in school who reaches out to make friends, “Josie and the Pussycats” #1 fits right in alongside its peers. Newcomer DeOrdio complements Bennett to help her deliver one of the strongest works of her young career, not to mention his own, while Mok updates the classic Josie look with her own distinct flair.