By Hannah Means-Shannon
There’s little better way to dive into a comics universe than through a one-shot, and in this case, The Archies One Shot that came out in shops this week is particularly apt since it brings you not only into the world of the current Archie comics, but into the world of musical themes which have always been a big part of the comic.
Written by Alex Segura and Matthew Rosenberg, with art by Archie artist Joe Eisma, the “double-sized” issue is a complete story told in a very satisfying way following Archie Andrews through his initial obsession with trying to start a band, recruitment and auditions, deciding to work with friends, inevitable terrible clashes, and a greater awareness of how to be a decent human being as well as a resolution to conflicts. It’s impressive that so much happens within the pages of such a stylish, entertaining one-shot.
The world of the comic is carefully constructed, as well. Eisma’s art picks out details that evoke enough atmosphere, with vibrant colors by Matt Herms, that you feel well-situated within Archie’s life even if you might never have read an Archie comic before. We understand through the art that Archie’s room is a place he probably spends too much time, dreaming things up, but also getting a skewed perspective on how “easy” things should be to put in action in the real world. Staying up late writing music may seem romantic, but it also alienates him from the human interaction that would add to his success.
The different locations that pop up in the comic establish a homeyness that remind you that creating a band is something young people do, and isn’t always to be taken oh-so-seriously. We also get kind of an exciting foray into a music venue that includes kids from other schools, creating a sense of venturing into the unknown for Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead. This movement to somewhere unfamiliar, a little unnerving, but attractive, reminds us that creating this band might have bigger implications in bringing the kids in touch with a “real world” out there. It’s as if they are leaving their collective bedrooms where things are safe and taking bigger risks.
The characterization from Seguara and Rosenberg in the comic is really subtle and works well so you don’t feel hit over the head with an attempt to introduce these characters quickly. We get Archie’s monologue, which helps a lot in understanding his perspective and motivations, even when we should be skeptical of them. We also get the back and forth between Archie and Jughead, which is super important to the comic. Jughead’s ironic and cutting perspective peels back the layers on Archie’s hang-ups and motives well, and keeps the world of the comic under examination for the reader. He also tends to throw in outside world references, from the reader’s world, that keep the comic grounded in a reality we can relate to.
Particularly convincing is the idea that Archie’s past and current relationships with Betty and Veronica would be bound to cause problems in a band situation. Taking the time to develop that in the comic impressed me. It’s not just Archie’s megalomania as a “creative” person that ends up causing trouble–though that is the worst offender–but also these simmering issues. The conflicts in the comic are so realistic that they feel almost satisfying. Is that mean? Either way, it makes for good reading. However, the deeper result is that we come to understand that Archie’s friends save him from himself, which is a great message.
The story may seem deceptively simple, but it’s actually quite elegantly told. This tale of music driving teen life but also forcing it off the rails a bit has a lot to say that’s relatable to modern life and it’s also a pleasant if bumpy walk through the lives of some iconic, and perhaps favorite, characters.
The Archies One Shot is out in comic shops as of Wednesday, May 24th.