Celebrating Pride Month! Arguably no publisher has done as much as Arche Comics in the last several years in terms of both taking decades-old iconic characters in radical new directions and experimenting with alternative iterations of their properties. And while the success of projects like Afterlife with Archie have sometimes been counterbalanced with more eyebrow-raising choices like Archie Vs. Sharknado, the will has been there to keep the characters and their world fresh. In tandem with this Archie have continued to work towards making Riverdale a more diverse and inclusive reflection of the world its readers live in. This week’s Archie & Friends: Summer Lovin’ #1 is the latest step in that direction with the introduction of new character Eliza Han, described in a recent press release as “a bi-racial pansexual teen”.
These Archie seasonal one-shots are a reliable source of comfort reading fun, usually comprising some new material and some classic comics content as back-up. ‘Carnival Love’, the opening story of Summer Lovin’ written by Tee Franklin, pencilled by Dan Parent and inked by Bob Smith, throws Eliza headfirst into the antics and social world of the Riverdale crew on a day out at the funfair. Teen businesswoman Eliza has come to town to spend some time with her girlfriend Harper who is also Archie-verse main player Veronica’s cousin. But long-time supporting player Reggie is looking to rekindle his own romance with Harper. Is there an awkward love triangle in the making here…?
At just five pages in length it means we learn more about Eliza from the text profile article at the back of the comic than we do from this near vignette, but future appearances will no doubt round out her character. Otherwise it’s a likeable meet-up of the gang that combines the usual running gags (Jughead’s over-eating and fairground rides, for example, obviously not the best combination) with either direct or implied commentary on ableism and fat-shaming.
Franklin’s story makes important observations for the book’s younger target audience about normalising diverse casts of characters and stepping back from fictional worlds that embody white privilege, heteronormativity, ableist attitudes, and body-shaming. Parent and Smith give us a traditionally visualised Archie gang with expressive visual characterisation again putting each character’s distinct personality front and centre, while Glenn Whitmore’s colours capture the vibrancy of the summer holiday setting. Jack Morelli’s lettering is also intuitively placed given how much back and forth between the characters is on show here.
Eliza Han development art by Dan Parent and Rosario “Tito” Peña
The “back-up” (in speech marks because it seems odd to call a 15-page story a back-up!) is a reprint from Archie #657 from several years back. ‘Windsurfing Woes’ sees Archie turn to Cheryl Blossom for help in learning how how to windsurf when Veronica becomes enamoured of Biff Logun, a champion in the sport. Tom DeFalco gives us a tale of inevitable slapstick farce, perfectly visualised by Pat & Tim Kennedy and Rich Koslowski, with Jack Morelli’s lettering effects outstanding here in giving Archie’s disastrous efforts a sense of animated calamity.
At just $2.99 Archie & Friends: Summer Lovin’ #1 is also a very reasonably-priced comic given the readership it is at least ostensibly aimed at. While we can only speculate as to what the actual buying demographics of the Archie line are, and whether the majority of the audience is creeping towards long-term nostalgists, the publisher continues to make a concerted effort to ensure that every reader has a character they can identify with. That’s to be lauded in a serial comics industry where such initiatives are roundly met with objections and pushback from a vocal minority.
Tee Franklin, Tom DeFalco (W), Dan Parent, Kennedy Bros. (P), Bob Smith, Rich Koslowski (I), Glenn Whitmore, Digikore Studios (C), Jack Morelli (L), Bill Golliher with Rosario “Tito” Peña (CA) • Archie Comics, $2.99
Review by Andy Oliver