Archie is put up for auction as Riverdale’s most eligible bachelor, but the only problem is that he’s not actually single. His secret romance with Sabrina is still…well…secret, so he’s forced into this crazy competition by Cheryl. Meanwhile, Jughead and Reggie are looking into the disappearance of Mr. Mantle and they’ve stumbled upon some pretty bizarre clues.
This new surge in Archie, under the banner of “Archie Forever” has been pretty solid so far, although it’s starting to lose some momentum. This is the fifth issue in the relaunch / renumbering and there are still a whole lot of question marks. It’s fine to spread some of these revelations out over time, but some of these feel like we’re not really moving.
Mr. Mantle’s disappearance is the perfect example of this. Writer Nick Spencer dedicates quite a few pages to it, but they’re really just rehashing what we already know as Reggie and Jughead compare notes. This is fine for new readers to get them up to speed, however for those who have been following it diligently since the beginning, it can be rather dry. That being said, there is an unexpected and spooky twist at the end of this sequence, so I’m holding out hope that we’ll soon see more from this.
As intriguing as that mystery is, the big story in Archie #704 is the budding relationship between Archie and Sabrina. They’ve had a good run over the summer and now it’s facing its first real challenge. The couple have to figure out what is more important to them, the strength of their relationship or its hidden nature. We kind of already know the answer to that as the comic is going to be renamed soon to Archie & Sabrina.
While that spoils some of the reveal, it doesn’t take away from the tension and drama. It builds steadily throughout this issue with some increasingly bizarre situations. Cheryl has pulled out all the stops for this competition. Artist Sandy Jarrell captures the absurd qualities of this show quickly and succinctly. Archie finds himself in these strange positions, surrounded by a over a dozen young women all pining for his heart. Under any normal circumstances, he would be in his element, but knowing how he feels about Sabrina, he just looks so uncomfortable.
My only qualm with the artwork is that everyone looks a bit too skinny. Every character looks like a long, slender stick without much shape to them. This is true for both the women and men. Colorist Matt Herms helps differentiate the characters with a vibrant color palette, like Archie’s bright orange hair or the otherwise bubbly nature of Riverdale.
Archie #704 features the first real fight between Archie and Sabrina. Letterer Jack Morelli keeps this argument moving at a brisk pace, adding some additional texture to the conversation. For example, Sabrina delivers an icy rebuttal and the word balloon has icicles hanging off it. You instantly understand how she’s saying those words.
At its heart, Archie is about teenage drama and this issue delivers it in spades. The thrill of a secret relationship is starting to wear off for these two love birds and now they have to figure out what they really want from this. It’s a major test and it looks like they might just come out of this stronger than ever, although I’m most curious as to what the fallout will be throughout Riverdale.