Comic books in the Archie Universe have never appealed to me growing up. Like many in my generation I grew up watching the 90s Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons. These cartoons led me to gravitate towards Marvel and DC Comics. Even as my comic book fandom has expanded to include series from Image, IDW and others I never found my way to comic books starring Archie and his cast. That is until the recent relaunch that is headlined by Mark Waid’s Archie comic book that has me hooked on the franchise.
I’ve always found the iconic love triangle of Archie, Betty and Veronica to be the least appealing and unbelievable comic book story. Even as we live in a comic book world were we have God-like characters such as Superman and “weird” series like Saga I have never been able to wrap my mind on what makes Archie’s relationship something that continues to sell. It’s to the point that the relationship is just nothing more than a joke because of its ridiculousness. And reading some of the back issue stories included in the new comic haven’t changed my mind in that opinion.
What has changed my mind on Archie comics is the work Mark Waid has done with the new universe he has created. Through this new Archie series Waid has been able to present a universe that is much easier to wrap my mind around. While Waid’s Archie comic still deals with the love triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica it’s not about who Archie is dating now. Instead it is a comic book about kids making mistakes, coming to conclusions without full understandings of everything going on. Its type of decisions you expect from someone of Archie and his casts age.
Helping ground the series even more is that we started the series with Archie and Betty already having been in a relationship together and dealing with the fallout of the break-up. Getting to see the fallout created by the break-up was a great springboard to quickly establish each characters personality in this new Archie Universe without feeling forced in.
This break-up also put Veronica in position for her and Betty to not be the third wheel. Instead Veronica is able to act as the next phase in Archie’s life just as we have all been through while growing up. And the reactions we see from each decision characters make as they choose sides furthers the growing up aspect of the overarching theme.
Now I will admit that part of what appeals to me about Waid’s Archie comic book is that it fills that hole of a guilty pleasure I’ve had with other franchises. In many ways reading Waid’s Archie comic reminds me of when I watched One Tree Hill while in high school. Though the tone of both franchises is extremely different they both activate that part of me that just wants to read or watch something completely different from what I normally do. And yes, I do fall in the One Tree Hill side of the ‘One Tree Hill vs The OC’ debate.
The lighthearted tone that deals with the personal relationships of characters has also been a good change of pace from every other comic book on the stands. In keeping things just about a cast of characters personal relationships allows each character to have time to grow. It’s also a reminder of how relating to the people around the lead is just as important as all of the action sequences we are bombarded with.
While I am not going to dig through the back catalogue of Archie comics Waid has built a strong interest in this Archie Universe. Seeing more comics branching off where Waid’s Archie has me invested in how other characters can be developed in the modern era. And for those looking for stories about personal relationships between characters I recommend giving Waid’s Archie a chance.