Comic books 16 Aug 2010 08:23 am
I liked Life with Archie: The Married Life #1 much more than I thought I would. Last year’s promotional coup by Archie Publications — showing Archie’s life if he married first Veronica and then, in another possible timeline, Betty — was an interesting experiment, but I was skeptical when the company announced it would continue the story in an ongoing magazine format.
I was wrong. Writer Michael Uslan and penciler Norm Breyfogle did a great job with this first outing, rejoining the future plotline after the nuptials but before little Archie Jrs. show up. While the Veronica story is more dramatic, the Betty story has its strong points too.
Even in this future story, Uslan knows he can’t tamper too much with Archie himself, so the writer shines the spotlight on supporting characters. I won’t ruin the surprises, but fans of Jughead, Pops, Mr. Weatherbee, Ms. Grundy and especially Moose and Midge will have much to mull over after this first issue. And what exactly is going on with Dilton, anyway?
Personally, I prefer veteran inker Joe Rubinstein’s inks over Breyfogle’s pencils in the first story. Not that inker Andrew Pepoy does anything wrong over Breyfogle in the second story, but he makes everything look too finished and restrained. Rubinstein keeps the spontaneity.
The marketing decision to run this at magazine size is a great way to get the book into venues that don’t normally carry comics. My copy came from Walgreens, but I’ve seen it elsewhere in my small town, including Wal-Mart and Giant Eagle. I can’t say the last time I’ve had the luxury of choice about purchasing a comic book from differing vendors; usually, my comics-buying sorties are 40-mile round trips. More companies should experiment with this model. I know Marvel publishes magazine-sized comics, but they are almost entirely reprints and priced out of the market. At $3.99, Life with Archie: The Married Life is a steal.
I’m less enthused about some of the Teen Beat-ish kinds of articles in the magazine, but those aren’t aimed at my demographic anyway. The book wisely makes the comics the main selling point, and I can see this title appealing not only to Archie enthusiasts and nostalgia seekers, but also to anybody who likes prime-time soap operas a la Desperate Housewives. It’s still recognizably Archie, and still all-ages, but with a layered storytelling approach that makes it work for adults as well as kids. Kudos to Archie Comic Publications for a terrific debut. Coupled with the exposure the company received from the New York Times over the weekend, 2010 could well be the year of Archie. Who’d have thunk it?