When I was a child, I’d sometimes buy Archie comics from the grocery store, reading them at home when I got back just so I could keep up with the adventures of Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead. When Mark Waid and Fiona Staples reimagined Archie in 2015, my love for the series was reignited, that passion hitting a new high as Archie suddenly became the one comic that was truly “unmissable.”
In many ways, the 2015 reboot was the best thing that could have possibly happened to the series, giving it a more serious plot and a linear story. But when the pandemic hit, something tragic happened: Archie stopped printing new issues. And for the longest time, I just couldn’t get my fix in of that particular brand of Archie content I’d loved so much — that is, until, Archie’s Holiday Magic Special.
While Archie’s Holiday Magic Special is not definitively set in the 2015 canon or anything, it still feels like the spirit of the relaunch. It reminds me of those characters I fell in love with all over again from that line, not being too juvenile and instead just being charming and fun.
Clumsy as ever, Archie gets hit in the head on page 1 of the comic and kind of gets a trip down memory lane as a result (thanks to a holiday fairy). The bit with child Archie is honestly so charming and adorable that it’s a complete delight to see this story get referenced again throughout the comic as the one connecting thread between Archie’s memories and possible future.
Archie believing in Santa isn’t just believable, it’s adorable. And the lie his father tells him to keep that belief alive when Veronica and Reggie try to tell him Santa is fake is honestly a little heartwarming. Archie then relays this information to Betty who also still believes in Santa Claus, and it’s honestly such a cute read. It feels totally on-brand for the two of them to be the last kids in Riverdale holding on to the Santa myth and it’s hard to read this bit without smiling.
Jughead’s latke eating competition is probably the best way to put Jughead into this comic, creating a story that feels totally organic and makes sense for the character. It’s also nice to see a holiday special that doesn’t totally revolve around Christianity and Christian traditions for its entire issue. The holiday gift drive was a cute way to end this Jughead-centric story, proving he’s got a heart as big as his stomach.
And since it’s an Archie comic, of course the love triangle comes back around when the “fairy” shows Archie the “future.” For a moment, it seems like the love triangle has ended as Archie and Betty reminisce in her bakery — until Veronica comes back in, that is. The friendship between Veronica and Betty is so central here and the idea that they baked goods for each other as apology gifts all those years is so cute, especially since they grow up to run a bakery together.
The special ends on a sweet note that feels totally organic to the characters and the Archie franchise as a whole. One thing that’s really interesting about this comic is that it seems to have adopted the famous “Christmas Carol” approach of showing Chrismas past, Christmas present, and Christmas future without the comic directly trying to parallel that or parody that. It just happens to feature a story set in the past, the present, and the future, all during the holiday season. It makes the special feel a bit more unique in a way.
Micol Ostow, Michael Northrop, and J. Torres all bring their A-game to this story, writing something that’s heartfelt, humorous, and fun. Gretel Lusky, Arielle Jovellanos, and Dan Schoening all feel like perfect fits for this special, capturing the feel of the Archie characters in a really modern way. The style of this comic in its writing and its art really feels like its in the spirit of the 2015 relaunch without outwardly being a part of the relaunch itself, and that’s one thing that makes it really special.
Archie’s Holiday Magic Special #1 is cute, funny, and just what the doctor ordered for any Archie fan who missed reading their adventures.
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