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‘Archie: Varsity Edition Vol. 1’ (review)

Written by Mark Waid
Illustrated by Fiona Staples, Annie Wu,
Veronica Fish, Thomas Pitilli, Ryan Jampole,
Andre Szymanowicz, Jen Vaughn, Jack Morelli

Published by Archie Comics


Yet again, Archie Andrews and his buddies have received a makeover. But this time around, the Riverdale Gang are not running from the undead or dealing with hormones in overdrive.

Rather, they are the same.

Different in as far as art and style, but the classic Archie is alive and well, perfectly preserved in the pages of Varsity Edition, an omnibus collecting the first twelve issues of the current series.

For those who need a quick breakdown of recent updates, events and makeovers, if goes like this: Gone are the days of bow ties, jalopies and pencil skirts.

The good citizens of Riverdale have been updated for modern audiences thanks to new threads, new haircuts, modern lingo and great overall shadowing detail throughout the book.

But don’t worry purists, that is where the updates stop. The comic isn’t taking a page from nighttime tween soap Riverdale, but remaining true to its roots. No Bughead. No serial killers or cults or Dark Betty. The book remains true to original premise of the classic comic. High school teens with minor problems looking to go to prom, pass exams, find part-time jobs and date.

Just twelve chapters of wholesome milkshake-sharing fun.

The premise of Varsity remains the same as the eternal love triangle between Archie Andrews, Veronica Lodge and Betty Cooper continues into its 70th year. It has been the comic’s central conflict since the ’40s and as old as Jughead’s whoopie cap.

And what would be Archie without his gang: The villainous Reggie, dumb Moose, candid Jughead, genius Dilton…each with a role to play as they fall into their high school cliques.

The omnibus starts with an quick intro from the red-headed teen that can do no wrong before the reader is plunged directly into a mysterious conflict between Archie and his best gal Friday, Betty. Matters are made worse with the arrival of new girl in town, Veronica.

From there on out, the book continues on it’s usual Archie path, but with just enough small twists to keep the story both moving and relevant. Yes, Veronica is still a snob, but she’s hiding a deep despair. Yes, Betty is still a tomboy, but she broke out of the friendzone long ago as her romance with Archie has hit the skids. Reggie is still a schmuck, but now he is a sociopath with a mission to bring down his peers.

Everyone is just a bit more extra. It is a much-needed touch for today’s fictional teen. Archie: Varsity Edition is like visiting an old friend. But a friend has matured and gown into itself. No longer trying too hard with ancient plot devices or running after tired trends to get readers, this “Archie” comic both provides preservation of the long-running Archie traditions while trudging forward into new territory that includes iPhones, reality TV and *gasp* other ethnic groups.

What makes the book unique is Archie’s fourth wall breaks which provides the reader with inside info on the characters and situations. It is these revelations that provide a new twist to the familiar comics. For example, previous to his role as best buddy/human garbage disposal, Jughead was the rich kid in town who lost it all and his nickname comes from a bad investment made by Mr. Jones. And that Archie is down on his luck when it comes to pocket cash.

The art style and lining reflects the new maturity of the comic. Gone are the big-eyed cherub figures that occupied the booth at Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe. Precise detail in the clothing and faces, as well as their surroundings gives the book a sense of reality that Archie of yesteryear lacked.

More importantly, it’s funny. Not in a forced way that eventually led to the downfall of old, outdated Archie. But in a way that is instantly relatable.

Archive: Varsity Edition is a step in the right direction for the Archie world, which was already making waves thanks to Afterlife titles and TV’s Riverdale. But rather than take on zombified versions of old friends and foes or follow batshit insane soap-style plotlines, this version of Archie Comics is based on preservation. It is safeguarding the classic comic. Attracting new audiences and staying true to longtime fans who grew up reading about Riverdale.

In these pages, the town of Riverdale and all of its citizens are kept safe, waiting for a new generation to appreciate their latest antics.



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