It was...okay. Since it has been years since I picked up an Archie comic, or reread any of my old ones, maybe some of the issues that bothered me were already there. I mean, let's face it, there were a lot of issues in old Archie comics...Archie was the worst!
The illustrations were amazing, I will give the graphic novel that at least. The styles were all very different, but well suited to the character that comic was depicting. The illustrations are what caught my attention, and kept me captivated, even when the story was lacking.
What I didn't like...
Let's start with Betty physically assaulting Jughead without anyone seeming to care. Why does no one care? Is it because she is a woman, so they believe her to be weak? Or that it doesn't matter if a teenage girl enacts violence on another? I mean, we see her toting bags that weigh 30kg, and Jughead struggling with that same bag, so we know she is strong. Do they believe Jughead deserves to be abused and man handled by his friend? I could not wrap my head around this, and no reason made any sense, it made me angry.
Then came Betty and Veronica #1, I started to see red. First of all, why is it that all the male characters receive their own comics, I mean even Reggie has his own gig. Betty and Veronica are major characters and they have to share space. Not only that, but their comic was so distasteful. Sure, you can say it is tongue-in-cheek, that it was poking fun at itself; but let's be honest, there's a chick fight, a dog is narrating (he does not even know anything about Veronica), their stereotypes are over exaggerated, there is blatant sexism (which they purposefully allude to), and their bodies are talked about sexually (I mean Betty's Mee Maw talks about boys and men ogling Betty's breasts) when they are teenage girls. It all felt too forced, going beyond the joke and becoming the joke. Betty and Veronica deserve more than this, and it feels like the author could not think of something better for these women than putting them in bikinis, fighting each other, and being so text heavy that I kept wanting to skip ahead. It felt cheap, these two powerful characters, that young girls looked up to and idolized, were trivialized and made second string in a story that was supposed to be about them. The pinup art of our writer/artist only added to the distaste for me, especially with some of the more jarring and unrealistic facial expressions (on Betty particularly). Am I awful for thinking that they missed out by not having a woman write this comic? Does that make me too feminist, or not feminist enough? At least the colours were nice, autumnal, you can almost, almost forget the rest.
The comic I liked the most was Reggie's, to be honest. Another dog narrating, but very focused on Reggie and not everyone else (ahem see above re: Betty and Veronica). It was interesting to have the narrator be Reggie's dog who loves him, as you often only see the bad in him and not the softer side. I liked following along behind the scenes of Reggie's life, finding out why he is the way he is, why he hurts the people around him. To be honest, when I was younger I wanted Betty to end up with him, as a giant FU to Archie (he does not deserve her, and Reggie is the antihero, so why not).
Jughead #1 was also well thought out, even if there was more Betty violence against him. It was a good focus on his character, his love of food, and his lack of interest in romantic relationships (yes, he is asexual). I love that about his character, although in the show I am a huge Betty/Jughead fan (so conflicted).
There were some fun nods to the original comics, and Archie #1 had me wanting to know more about the Lipstick Incident; however, this book did not hit enough high moments to rate higher than a 3; especially when Betty and Veronica #1 left such a bad taste in my mouth. Glad the show took a different approach (which is funny, as this was supposed to reveal how the show came to be, but I could not see any connections).
Below are my favourite spreads from each of the new comics, with two spreads from Reggie and Me #1.