Archie #20 has been solicited as kicking off “the biggest event in Archie history.” That’s quite the declaration, and it begs the question—is it good?
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Pete Woods
Publisher: Archie Comics
The issue gets off to a very promising start. The first aspect of it that I was drawn to was Pete Woods’ art. From the splash page onward, Woods delivers a bright and unique style that matches Riverdale and its residents very well. The colors are a lot of fun, and the line art is often both cartoony and detailed at the same time. It’s a unique style that I think works really effectively for grabbing one’s attention and generating positive vibes. The backgrounds are frequently pretty, regardless of if they are colored in monochromatically or contain a lot of detail. Woods seems to have a knack for knowing how to manage the space on a page, and the artistic high points do a lot to enhance how enjoyable the issue ultimately is.
Mark Waid’s writing starts off strong as well. Archie’s opening monologue is both playful and serious—even as Reggie Mantle is described as irredeemable, the visual gags in the background help lighten the mood. After that we delve into plot events about Archie and Betty working on fixing up a car together. This portion of the issue is also enjoyable enough, and there’s still some humor mixed in with the character exploration.
It’s after that point that things start to take a turn. The second half of the book isn’t so much a mixture of fun camp and emotional character development as it is soap opera-esque. Your mileage will likely vary with regards to how much you like the issue based upon how accepting you are of more dramatic twists on kid-friendly properties you are. Regardless of matters of personal tastes, I felt like the issue’s more dramatic plot events could have been more effectively conveyed. You don’t have to get very far into the final scene to know exactly how it’s going to turn out and, while it’s certainly dramatic, I don’t think it is successfully so. It kind of feels like an episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation, where serious real life issues are integral to the plot but the handling of said issues lacks a sense of authenticity.
Overall, this isn’t a bad issue. The positive aspects of the art are very engaging, and there’s potential to this story. I think these issues may read better back-to-back once the arc has been finished, but right now the tonal shift throws me, and not in a good way. Rather than a multifaceted narrative, this story kind of feels like two different comics smashed together into one. Time will tell if the rest of the arc remedies this problem. In the case of this issue as a standalone story, the different tones just don’t mesh, and some of the art in the second half lacks the charm that the first half’s visuals have. Ultimately, the good and bad aspects of this issue even out to leave what feels like an average, and often predictable, reading experience.
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