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‘Archie 1955’ GN (review)

Written by Brian Augustyn and Mark Waid
Art by Tom Grummet, Ray-Anthony Height,
Rick Burchett, Derek Charm, Joe Eisma,
Glenn Whitmore, Jack Morelli

Published by Archie Comics

 

Let me say here at the beginning that I don’t hate Archie 1955 but for some reason it just didn’t grab me like I expected. I mean, the book’s pedigree alone is impressive.

First off, its writers are Brian Augustyn and Mark Waid, both favorites for a number of projects over a period of decades now. Pencils and inks for the book (originally a five-issue mini-series) are by a laundry list of talented folks (including one of my Facebook friends). I already knew about half of them and the only complaint I have about the other half is that the various styles sometimes seem to clash a bit.

Archie Comics guru Mike Pellerito opens the book with an informative background all about the real-world time period in which the story is set.

I found myself wondering exactly who this book was created for, though. Archie’s core teen and pre-teen audience certainly wouldn’t know or care about Elvis or Uncle Miltie. Older fans I guess?

The story itself is an old one, subject of numerous movie and TV plots since 1955.

A number of real-world stories, too! It’s framed here by a mysterious, shadowy, but eventually predictable character relating it all to a reporter. It seems there was this young, innocent lad who just wanted to play music. He and his friends formed a band and started to get noticed.

He’s taken on by a rich manager/promoter whose daughter he falls for like the proverbial ton of bricks. He tries to keep success from going to his head even as he comes to realize more and more how little of his life or his music is his own after a while.

He leaves his friends behind and becomes the gimmicky flavor of the month mega-success story.

Even as I write this, it occurs to me that last paragraph is largely the plot of Breaking Glass, a favorite 1980s movie with a British New Wave setting. I think there’s a similar Cliff Richard movie from the 1960s, too, and I know I saw a similar TV series episode of something in the 1970s. Of course, to a great extent, it’s also the true story of the rise of Elvis Presley.

Archie here is Elvis with Hiram Lodge as Colonel Parker.

Some scenes, such as the singer being ridiculed on a live TV appearance, I know are directly taken from Presley’s career and others feel like they could have been, too. Betty and Veronica are almost unrecognizable at times, particularly Veronica, and I don’t just mean the way they’re drawn. They just don’t “feel” like Betty and Veronica. (Don’t go there. Shame on you!)

By contrast, Jughead and Reggie as Archie’s bandmates are in character. Archie’s parents, Pop Tate, Dilton, Moose, and particularly Chuck, who has a fairly large role here, feel generic. They could pretty much be anybody.

The best part of the story is its conclusion. Predicated on just a slight twist that I totally did not see coming, the book that has, until now, been mostly by the numbers hands the reader a surprisingly upbeat ending.

Still, it says something when the best part of the book itself is the 22-page (!) preview of an entirely different graphic novel—Michael Uslan’s The Archie Wedding Ten Years Later, drawn in a more traditional Archie style by the always impressive Dan Parent.

If you’re an Archie completist, sure. If you’re an Elvis or early rock history fan, you’ll probably like it. Otherwise—and again, I’m as surprised as you are—I think I’d pass.

Archie! 1955 is available on comiXology

 

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