I’m not sure what I was expecting when I was given the opportunity to read and review the fourth volume in Dark Horse’s “Archie Archives” series. Throughout all of my life I’ve seen Archie comics in some form (mainly in digest form when going through a checkout lane at a grocery store), but they’re something I usually pass by. Why? I think it’s because I tend to think of Archie as being a comic that was “before my time,” which is ridiculous; I read Superman and Batman, and they are a great deal “before my time” if we’re talking about when they began.
So, with that weak excuse out of the way, what better way for me to enjoy Archie than to see the strips the way they were originally seen? Archie Archives, Volume Four gives me 200 pages of just such an opportunity.
Collecting every Archie appearance from Pep Comics #51-#53 and Archie Comics #11-#14, I began reading with the expectation of this volume giving me a nice introduction to the familiar and yet different world of 1940s Riverdale, home of “America’s newest boy friend,” Archibald “Chick” Andrews.
I got that plus something unexpected.
Whether from cartoons, newspaper comics or just the general cultural information about the strip, I thought I knew Archie and his gang. In some ways I thought of it as basically “Happy Days” in print — but what I saw and read was something way less polished and way more remarkable than that.
Archie and his friends read almost as if they were fresh out of the pages of Mad Magazine (or even Cracked) in that there were some genuine homespun buffoonery running rampant in these pages. Broad humor and easy gags (whether at the tail end of a run-in with a bull or rabbit) were just as prevalent as the nervousness and insecurities that comes with youth.
Also, though I tend to think of these characters as perennial high-schoolers, it was nice to have issues dealing with Betty and Veronica and what sorority they both should be in, etc. Little things like that gave a breadth to these characters that I hadn’t expected.
Instead of quaint little cookie cutter characters that never changed and never really showed any growth from one comic to the next, Archie Archives, Volume Four showed me that (at least at the onset) Archie and his friends were vital and came from people talented and eager to tell the story of “every” teen through the medium of comics.
Maybe today the strip might seem stodgy and old simply because it is impossible to keep up that vitality over the long span of years the strip is lucky enough to have survived. In the end, though, it survives because of the strong strong core of it’s beginning.
Archie Archives is well worth picking up and reading. If you’re like me, though, afterwards you’re just going to want to pick up the first three volumes in the series as well.
(Archie Archives, Volume Four is set to be released by Dark Horse Comics in a hardcover format on February 7, 2012. Copy reviewed was in a PDF format provided for advance review.)