Archie Archives, Vol. 4 is a strangely fascinating page from the history book of the typical teenager from Riverdale. Reprinting issues of Archie and Pep Comics, from 1944 and 1945, this is the books’ very early years, long before Kevin Keller and KISS. But things are far from bland: the art is almost exclusively from Bill Vigoda, the real life brother of Abe Vigoda, best known as Sal Tessio from The Godfather films. Like I said, it’s a little strange.
In this volume we see the ingredients that make up an average Archie comic still swirling around, not yet fully settled. On the surface everything is still the same, the stories hit all the same beats: Archie goes on a date or gets a new job or starts a new hobby… and then things go wrong with hilarious results.
It’s only peripherally that things are different. Archie is chipmunk faced, bow legged, and just plain dim witted. Jughead’s sleepy look is locked in a mean spirited grimace. Betty and Veronica appear as vamps, contrasting oddly with everyone else’s cartoonish features, that share a nasty competitiveness between them that made my blood run a bit cold. The stories are almost entirely broad slapstick, one of Vigoda’s strengths being kinetic chase sequences which he returns to again and again.
All that said, I don’t think it’s interesting enough to make any Archie converts. The storylines are even more repetitive then the current books and the six panel per page layouts started to get on my nerves around page 100. And, with all due respect to Dark Horse, I am at a loss as to why so many of the non-illustrated stories were reprinted.
If there is an audience for this book I am sure it’s the dyed in the wool Archie fans, and you know who you are: That the stories stay the same over the years is all part of the fun and you don’t mind that change happens slowly, over decades sometimes. It’s Kabuki theater. I’m sure you guys will adore this volume.