By Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, Peter Krause, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Jack Morelli & various (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-68255-823-2 (TPB)
Since his debut in Pep Comics #22 (cover-dated December 1941) Archie Andrews has epitomised good, safe, wholesome cartoon fun, but the company that now bears his name has always been a deviously subversive one. Family-friendly iterations of superheroes, spooky chills, sci fi thrills, licensed properties and genre yarns of every stripe have always been as much a part of the publisherâ€™s varied portfolio as the romantic comedy capers of Americaâ€™s clean-cut teens.
As initially realised by John L. Goldwater and Bob Montana, the first escapade set the scene and ground rules for decades to come Archie has spent his entire existence chasing both the gloriously attainable Betty Cooper and wildly out-of-his-league debutante Veronica Lodge, whilst best friend Jughead Jones alternately mocked and abetted his romantic endeavours and class rival Reggie Mantle sought to scuttle every moveâ€¦
Crafted over time by a veritable legion of writers and artists whoâ€™ve skilfully created the stories of teenage antics in and around the idyllic, utopian small town of Riverdale, these timeless tales of decent, upstanding, fun-loving kids have captivated successive generations of readers and entertained millions worldwide both on comic pages and in other media such as film, television, radio, newspaper strips, music and even fast food.
To keep all that accumulated attention riveted, the company has always looked to modern trends with which to expand upon their archetypal storytelling brief. In times past they cross-fertilised their stable of stars through such unlikely team-ups as Archie Meets the Punisher or Archie Meets Kiss, whilst every type of fashion fad and youth culture sensation has invariably been accommodated into and explored within the pages of the regular titles. The gang has been reinvented and remodelled numerous times, even stepping outside the parameters of broad comedy to offer dramatic – albeit light-hearted – â€œreal-worldâ€ iterations of the immortal cast of characters and clownsâ€¦
With a major Anniversary in sight, in 2019 the publishers took an extraordinarily bold step and recast the characters in memorable â€œWhat If?â€ scenario and took the gang back to the origin days in a way never seen beforeâ€¦
Devised by comics superstars Brian Augustyn (Gotham by Gaslight; Crimson; Black Mask; Flash) & Mark Waid (pretty much everything, but especially Flash; Daredevil; JLA; X-Men; Kingdom Come; Captain America; Empire; Incorruptible; Impact Comics; Archie) and illustrated by Peter Krause (Star Trek; Irredeemable; Superman; Power of Shazam; Birds of Prey) with moody colours from Kelly Fitzpatrick and letters by veteran Jack Morelli, Archie: 1941 takes a disturbingly hard look at what that year would have meant to real teenagersâ€¦
It begins in May as graduating seniors Archibald Andrews and Forsythe Pendleton â€œJugheadâ€ Jones join their classmates in celebrating and frittering away â€˜The Last Summerâ€™. However, generally happy-go-lucky Arch is increasingly sullen and withdrawn, fixated on news and newsreels of the â€œEuropean Conflictâ€â€¦
His dad is angry: concerned that the kid is frittering away his time, but Pop Tate at the Diner which was the school kidsâ€™ hangout fears the war news means another generation will be lostâ€¦
Even the lifelong rivalry with Reggie Mantle has taken on a more serious, violent overtone, especially since rich kid Veronica Lodge returned to Riverdale. She had been in Paris where her millionaire dad was making deals in preparation for future bad timesâ€¦
Even Betty cannot shake Archieâ€™s despondent mood, which proves prescient as passing, wasted days lead to shocking events on December 7th and â€˜Itâ€™s War!â€™
In the aftermath, a surprising number of young and old Riverdale residents seek to enlist – many with shocking results and consequences – but ultimately â€˜Home & Awayâ€™ finds Archie at boot camp in Speck, Alabama in May 1942, still sparring with his nemesis and fellow soldier Reggie, while those left behind due to infirmity or family pressure discover how the crisis has brought out the very worst in their fellow citizens – and even civic leaders such as Hiram Lodge who turn profiteer as rationing bites hardâ€¦
Wit tensions rising everywhere, â€˜Into the Fireâ€™ sees the Riverdale boys deployed to North Africa in November 1942 even as tensions boil over in the old home town. Unable to face her fatherâ€™s actions, Ronnie makes a defiant move. She and Betty are cruelly unaware just how much Archie is missing them or the changes his new life have wrought. Unable to join them, Jughead learns all about war from Pop Tate and makes a decision to change his own path.
And, far, far away, Archieâ€™s unit enters history at Kasserine Passâ€¦
Final chapter â€˜The Lostâ€™ begins in Riverdale after the telegrams have been opened and funerals arranged. The place has forever changed and the gang are preparing to part forever, but then something quite miraculous happens. Be warned though, itâ€™s not a happy ending for everyoneâ€¦
Packed with delicious in-jokes for the cognoscenti (like the gangâ€™s opinions on Mickey Rooney as teen archetype Andy Hardy), searing tension when appropriate, and all the warmth and heart of contemporary melodramas like Best Years of Our Lives or trauma-tinged fantasies such as A Matter of Life and Death and Itâ€™s a Wonderful Life, this moving extrapolation captures perfectly what life must have felt like in those distant, doom-laden days.
The novel experience is further enhanced by Special Features including a scene-setting Introduction; cover concept sketches by Krause and a full covers-&-variants gallery by him, Rosario â€œTitoâ€ PeÃ±a, Sanya Anwar, Francesco Francavilla, Dave Johnson, Aaron Lopresti, Dan Parent, Audrey Mok, Marguerite Sauvage, Derek Charm, Ray Anthony Height, Jon Lam, Cory Smith, Tula Lotay and Jerry Ordway & Glenn Whitmore. Thereâ€™s also character designs, alternate logo concepts and a fascinating interview with the entire creative team, who also plug the inescapable Rock nâ€™ roll follow-up Archie! â€™55â€¦
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