Mark Waid, Ian Flynn (writers), Audrey Mok (art), Kelly Fitzpatrick (colors), Jacck Morelli (letters)
February 14, 2018
I have been following this new run of Archie since issue #1. While I don’t quite have the problems that many of my WWAC sistren have with Mark Waid’s writing, the Betty-drag-race-wheelchair arc nearly knocked me off the book. I’m glad the wheelchair aspect of it is already phasing out.
Now, though there’s a new writer, and working with Waid, this is his debut issue, addressing the fallout of the recent events, now that Betty’s on the road to recovery.
They’re holding up the same stylistic vibe that has been the form since day one. The reader is still a newish face in Riverdale who hangs out with Archie and gets to see the bizarre bad luck that happens almost like a supernatural power around him to everyone but Jughead, Betty, and Veronica; even the last two are debatable if you ask some of the local Riverdale girls who try to date Archie.
But the fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench, the pain in the ass, is Reggie Mantle, who has leveled up his nastiness. He’s no longer a rival for B&V, even though he and Archie still can’t stand each other. He’s practically a mustache twirling cloaked bad guy now, though, possessed of every annoying and inconsiderate trait that makes you want to throttle someone. He texts in the theater and does everything the “don’t ruin the movie” PSAs ask you not to. He makes overly complicated orders at the drive-thru with a long line behind him. All very amusing. All fairly harmless. He pops the balloons of passing children without even looking. All spending his father’s money, while his father goes apopleptic as the charges stack up.
Reggie’s written as canny and cunning. Calculating. This is a nice spin on the character. He’s the closest thing to a genuine nemesis for this comic’s affable and clueless hero. I don’t know how well it’ll hold. He doesn’t seem to be frightened by his brief stay in jail for nearly having killed Betty while antagonizing Archie. He mulls over a federal offense but he discards the idea, almost as if it’s an inconvenience rather than a potential life-ruiner.
It’s an amusing story. Reggie is turning out to be the villain you love to hate. There’s a lovely bit of the story that gives us glimpses of Reggie’s weird and dysfunctional home life. His mother sees him as her perfect little angel who can do no wrong. His father sees him as the bad seed who has grown to become the thorn in his side, right on down to extorting him for money. He has the tantalizing secret of the Blossom twins and is planning to hold it until it offers him maximum advantage in cash or gratification. Which will give first? Or will a new thing happen and throw Reggie’s self centered plans into disarray? Suspense!
The sub-plot involving Betty and Veronica is shaping up nicely as well. Focusing on their friendship, the way it’s written is already feeling a little queerbaity to me, despite the cute plays on words that implies Veronica doesn’t speak “poor people” English. Time will tell if it turns out to be as problematic as it seems. The Betty plot is also beginning to get pushed out of the front and center. They still refer to Betty’s injury as almost leaving her wheelchair-bound in the recap. Her crutches end up on the floor in the spa scene and don’t make another appearance. Those little inconsistencies are going to need watching by the editorial team.
And what of Archie himself? His weird bad luck field costs him the potential girlfriends, wigs out the spring dance committee, and vexes Weatherbee. Thankfully Jughead is burger guru and the calm in the storm.
We also are seeing more of the supporting cast. An updated Weatherbee shows surprising competence in the face of Archie-originating wacky mishaps. Solid issue. It still has much of Waid’s thumbprint on it so we’ll have to see the new writer on his own to get a feel for the new vibe.