Or – “The One With The Proposal…”

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General rule of thumb for me?  Don’t review a comic more than a week or so old.  For an event of this magnitude, though, I’m happy to revise that theory, because (honest and for true) it took nearly a month for me to snag a copy of the issue.  Finally, the boy from Riverdale chooses between the two objects of his affection, and then a very wholesome brand of all heck breaks loose…

Arch2.jpgPreviously, on Archie:  For the last 60-odd years, Archie Andrews has been hanging about the town of Riverdale, bothering Principal Weatherbee, hanging out at the Chocklit Shoppe with his best pal Forsythe P. “Jughead” Jones, and enjoying a sometimes-less-than-friendly rivalry with one Reginald Mantle.  Over the years, the fashions have changed, the slang has changed, but the overarching (you should excused the expression) question has always been: Will Archie choose Betty, the wonderful and loving girl next door, or will he choose Veronica, the snooty rich-girl who has given him so much grief over the years?  Throughout the decades, he’s vacillated back and forth from blonde to brunette, from girl next door to uptown girl, changing his mind more often than his jalopy throws a rod…  Heck, at one point he ditched both girls to go out with a redhead named Cheryl Blossom, but that’s neither here nor there.  It seems that Master Andrews has finally wrapped his mind around the eternal question, and has chosen the metaphorical Ginger over the proverbial Maryanne.  But, you ask, even though a bear is not driving, HOW CAN THIS BE??

We open this testament to history in the gym of Riverdale High School, as the Archie’s rock out their last set as high school students (probably consisting of “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”, “Cherry, Cherry”, and “She Hangs Out”) and enjoy one last hurrah before college sends them off in differing directions.  It’s a really charming scene, as even Reggie and Jughead are having a great time, and everyone swears that they’ll still be friends after graduation.  (Of course, Andre and Kevin made that same vow after Season 1 of ‘The Real World,’ and I doubt they’ve so much as dropped a postcard since.)  Arch finds himself a bit saddened, though, and ends up going for a walk down Memory Lane, a very clever bit of business, with shop windows and signs filled with wonderful tips of the hat to creators past, and even a comic shop called “Mighty Comics ((Formerly Radio Comics)),” a joke which I will happily explain if anybody asks.  Suddenly, Archie realizes that for all the times he’s gone down Memory Lane, he’s never walked THE OTHER WAY.  After a quick jog UP Memory Lane, Mr. Andrews returns home to find himself ready to graduate… FROM COLLEGE???  Seems that we’ve made a literal shift into the future, (with the art style changing slightly  as well, a nice touch) and the lead singer of the Archies is ready to take a big ol’ plunge into adulthood.

With his friends off on their own (Dilton to MIT, Betty to New York, Jughead to flip burgers at the Chocklit Shoppe) Archie makes the ever-so-foolish decision to ask Veronica to marry him, much to the chagrin of Papa Lodge.  But even Papa Hiram has to admit that the boy shows a little more spine than he has in days past, and thus Mr. Lodge agrees to not only sanction the union, but to give Andrews a job with his firm.  I very much enjoy the next couple of pages, as EVERYONE in Archie Comics from Miss Grundy to Big Moose to Mr. Weatherbee and back find out about the impending nuptuals, and gets a moment to respond to the news.  Unfortunately, this particular omelette has one pretty little blue-eyed broken egg, as Betty Cooper takes the loss of her first love extremely hard, and flees Riverdale, vowing to never come back to the place her heart was broken.  As for Juggie, he has the best response of all to Archie’s revelation: “Being idiots sometimes has never stood in the way of our friendship.”  Heh…  Veronica tries to get Betty to be her maid of honor, but Miss Cooper only sadly tells her, “You won.”  With Ronnie planning a huge wedding, and Hiram planning to turn his once tormentor into his son-in-law and heir apparent, it looks like Riverdale is in for some big changes…

A couple of digressions: Recently, one of my agents (James, if you must know) was reading a “Betty and Veronica Digest” that he bought at the grocery store between calls at work, and I spent a few moments reminiscing with him over how awesome the old-school Archie comics are, with their perfect love triangle, and the simple stories that still pack an dramatic  punch.  It was a little weird thinking about being a kid and reading these stories, and even weirder to run into them in a work setting.  Digression the second:  There was a time in my childhood where one of my most anticipated moments was Saturday mornings when I could watch cartoons, and I clearly remember seeing “The Archies” in that bizarrely primitive Filmation cartoon style, and just loving the characters to death.  With that in mind, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to enjoy this story as much as I did.  Archie, Jughead, and his friends are all still the characters that I remember, and the MacGuffin is done in such a cute and retro fashion that what could have been another “What If” instead becomes a charming pseudo-Silver-Age “Imaginary Story.”  I will go on the record as saying that Archie made the wrong choice here, but even that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the overall tale being told.  The art style is intriguing, maintaining that clear and present house style from the digests of my (and James’) youth, while injecting a modern tone and even giving the future portions of the tale their own clear artistic nuances.  To be able to get this much expression out of the characters while staying on-model is a very impressive enough feat, but to do it with a style that’s this deceptively simple is just amazing.  This could very well serve as a model of how to do a comic book event, reinforcing the characters and their history without overwhelming the reader, and telling an interesting story in a clear and entertaining way.  Archie #600 earns 5 out of 5 stars, even if the boy doesn’t have the sense to realize which girl is really right for him…  I haven’t read Archie in YEARS, but reading this book,  it was Saturday morning in 1976 all over again.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this all plays out…

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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6 Comments

  1. Navarre
    September 13, 2009 at 8:09 am — Reply

    I haven’t read Archie Comics in years. It sounds like the perfect issue for fans.

    I hope Mephisto doesn’t mess this up.

  2. MaximusRift
    September 13, 2009 at 10:26 am — Reply

    I’ll call it now. Either we’ll get another story with him proposing to Betty or that wedding might end up not going as we think.

    Just a guess, though. I don’t know the writer.

    • September 13, 2009 at 10:55 am — Reply

      Michael Uslan is the writer of the series. If you check out the preview, you’ll see Archie taking a trip up Memory Lane, and when he reaches a fork in the road he takes the one on the left, which leads to him marrying Veronica, having kids (issue #602) and so on. My guess is the fork on the right leads him down a different (Betty) path.

  3. September 13, 2009 at 5:22 pm — Reply

    Or, as I would call it… The Correct Path.

  4. September 14, 2009 at 7:48 am — Reply

    This is in my read stack, but I am still a couple of issues away from reading it. I don’t usually pick up the single monthly comics, preferring to stick to the double digests, but I am trying to make sure that my LCS of choice gets the full series. Not sure he is going to, so I may have to end up ordering them.

    HAVE to bump a few other comics and trades out of order tonight and sit down to read it, your review just got me to curious.

  5. Hey!
    September 14, 2009 at 8:49 am — Reply

    Y’know, I always hate when I find out that people from high school got married. I’m like, there are 8 billion other people on the planet! Travel! Get out of your little corner of the world and explore a bit. After all that, then you come home and marry the girl next door? Maybe thats ok, but it just seems so sad and pathetic. I hope the the other fork in the road takes Archie off to college somewhere else, and off to a career somewhere else, where he meets his perfect girl.

    Maybe the reason he has never chosen between B&V before is that they both suck.

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