REVIEW: Archie #636

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Or – “The Part Of Regina Mantle Will Be Played By Kim Kardashian.”

Archie Comics has been at the forefront of comic culture lately, and have probably been discussed more in the past 5 years than in the previous 20.  Given that they’re keeping the Archie tradition while embracing diversity and political discourse, as well as guest-starring Gene Simmons, you have to appreciate what they’re up to.  And when Sabrina’s involved, anything can happen, which is awesome in so many ways.  In this issue, the genders of our cast get magically swapped and things get weird…  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

ARCHIE #636
Writer: Tania Del Rio
Penciler: Gisele
Inker: Rich Koslowski
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Colorist: Digikore Studios
Editor: Victor Gorelick
Publisher: Archie Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Archie:  Since 1941, young Archie Andrews has been hanging out at Riverdale high school, avoiding detention, infuriating his principal and making time with two women far out of his league.  His extended family of comics outgross the national product of most countries, and he’s been a multi-media star of stage, screen, radio and more.  Really, the only thing he hasn’t done in the past 80 years is turn into a girl…

Welcome to Archie #636.

THAT SPELLMAN GIRL, AGAIN…

I admit it: I’ve always had a soft spot for Archie Comics.  Back in the day, you could find a Double Digest at every grocery stand for 75 cents, and get a few days reading out of it, even if Archie should have known better than to pursue Veronica.  (Betty was clearly where it was at, y’know.)  This issue opens with Sabrina Spellman and Salem (who will always be voice by Nick Bakay in my head) getting snubbed at the Chock’lit Shoppe by Reggie Mantle, the source of all conflict in Riverdale.  Salem wants to teach Reggie a lesson about being considerate to women, and we’re off!  The art in this issue is simply amazing, drawn by Gisele of webcomics fame, with an utterly charming way of being completely on-model while also being perfectly in Gis’ trademark style.  Salem’s shenanigans quickly become more than just a way to teach Reggie something, and the naughty cat sprinkles chromosome-altering madness across the entire town.  (Given that he was turned INTO a cat for abusing his magical powers, you have to think that Salem likes playing with fire.)

CUTE AND THOROUGH…

The maguffin is less important than the effects, though, as we get introduced to the alternate versions of our Riverdale pals (including Ms. Weatherbee, local rock band Joey and the Junkyard Dogs, and even smart-girl Dilly) as they go through their surreal day.  The point of an issue like this isn’t big drama or lasting changes, but clever inversions of the characters we know.  Jughead becomes a cute young tomboyish girl named J.J. (whose spiky ponytail emulates his omnipresent crown) while Archina finds herself pursued by both Ronnie and Billy.  If you overthink this issue, you might find yourself troubled (Why is Kevin Keller noticably absent?  How come Ronnie suddenly becomes the pursuer when transformed into a boy?  Why is Big Moose suddenly a tiny petite thing?) but the point here is watching Gisele do her stuff while everybody dances and smiles in their wonderful Riverdale way.

THE BOTTOM LINE: EFF-YOU-ENN SPELLS ARCHIE.

This issue reminds me of the Archie stories of my youth, where everybody has a particular character quirk (Archie’s smitten, Ronnie’s vain, Juggie’s disdainful, Betty is clinically insane) and the punchline comes at the end.  Everybody laughs.  Curtains.  But I haven’t read an Archie book this gorgeous since the heydey of Dan DeCarlo, with Gisele’s art perfectly complimented by excellent inking and coloring.  Archie #636 is a fun, frenetic bon-bon of an issue, setting out to entertain and doing so in fine fashion, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  I wouldn’t analyze it too deeply, just enjoy Valerie Brown looking like Kofi Kingston and have a soda…

Rating: ★★★★½