Today, Patrick and Ryan M. are discussing Archie 3, originally released September 30th, 2015.
Patrick: David Fincher’s adaptation of Fight Club surpasses the original Chuck Palahniuk novel in a lot of ways — chief among them is Fincher’s stylish filmmaking. Fincher is so cool behind the camera, and the gulf between the drudgery of the narrator’s everyday existence and the idyllic (if chaotic) world that Tyler Durden offers is wide enough to made Durden’s obviously bad ideas sound like great ones. That’s a tool that Palahniuk didn’t really have at his disposal — Tyler’s ideas seem much more ridiculous on the page without that veneer of cool to legitimize them. My favorite way that Fincher improves on Palahniuk’s story is in the meeting between the narrator and Tyler — up until this point, the audience is inundated with Edward Norton’s voice over, and an almost oppressive score from the Chemical Brothers. The film is also largely an extended montage until we meet Tyler, and the pacing of the scenes quicken right up to the point that they wind up next to each other on a plane. But the action, the narration, and the score all come to a screeching halt the second Tyler opens his mouth. He represents freedom from all the neurosis the narrator has been filling our head with since the moment the movie started. Tyler — both in the life of the narrator and in the film — is the ultimate disruptor. Archie 3 pulls a very similar trick, but who has the force of personality to be Archie’s Tyler Durden? Why, Veronica Lodge, of course.
Our good pal Archie has been showing us around Riverdale, literally narrating straight to the camera as though he’s Zack Morris. And he’s been a pretty excellent tour guide, helping the readership to learn both what’s attractive about this franchise to begin with and what’s new this time around. But Mark Waid and Fiona Staples take that narrative device right out of Archie’s mouth in on the very first page.
If you can’t make out the copy in that first panel, that’s okay — it’s just Archie addressing the reader, breaking the fourth wall as he’s so keen on doing. But then he’s interrupted by a fancy purple car running him down. The vanity plates make little mystery about the identity of the driver: that’s Veronica’s car. Check out the size of that panel too — we haven’t seen it established very well in this issue yet, but there’s only one other example of a panel violating gutter. Veronica not only cuts Archie off from his direct line to the reader, she transcends the rules of the medium that every other panel obeys. Archie, lovable dope that he is, keeps right on talking, but now, instead of existing in a magic “time out,” he’s talking in real time and real space, so Jughead hears him and responds with the appropriate exasperation.
Archie never really gets the issue under his control at any point after this. Most of the plot of issue revolves around Jughead trying to convince Betty to help disabuse Archie of his affections for Veronica. Jughead tries to tackle the problem head on, by getting real with his friend, but Archie’s so severely smitten (and also sorta blackmailed) that he can’t really stand up for himself. There is a moment toward the end of the issue, where Archie tries to wrestle back control, addressing the reader with a pithy little summary of Veronica’s first day of school. But the sharp corners of the panel dutifully transform to the rounded corners of a television monitor as a TV reporter breaks in with a story about Riverdale’s newest teenage celebrity.
I love this shit. Not only does Veronica just totally take over Archie’s life, she steamrolls his medium. Of course, these examples are also very specific to comics, which pretty strongly makes the case for this series being a comic in the first place. I know that the second a comic book finds any success, people are quick to discuss how it should be adapted for film or television, but it’s refreshing to see Waid and Staples putting so much faith in the tools of the medium themselves.
Of course, it helps that Staples is a master craftsman. As much as that two-page splash of a puke-covered Veronica effectively communicates all the air leaving the room, her brisk walk-of-shame to the bathroom on the next page is the true work of art. There’s so much amazing acting happening on this page — a feat that’s all the more remarkable because we don’t get to see her face in a third of these panels.
The acting in her hands in panels 2,3, and 4 is just fucking awesome. In panel 2, her fingers are extended, as though expressing the scream she’s managing to stifle with that stone-cold expression. Then her hands curl up into an affected posture of superiority for the third panel, only to crumble in the fourth. It’s a perfect journey through trying-to-keep-it-together to simply falling apart.
Ryan! I loved this issue, and I feel like I could have just pulled out any page to discuss Staples’ bravura storytelling. Like that scene when Jughead visits Archie in P.E. — he’s like a magical elf! That’s basically how Legolas would have navigated a dodgeball game. What were your favorite parts? Also, I love this characterization of Ronnie — just shitty enough without actually being a horrible person — but I’m curious if it strikes the right chord with you. And lastly: who’s your guess on the Taylor and Katie from her story? Swift and Perry? Lautner and Holmes? Who?
Ryan M.: My brain immediately went to Swift and Holmes, which is probably a result of an ever-running mashup of “You Belong With Me” and the Dawson’s Creek credits in a dark corner of my mind. The use of first names is such a solid indicator of Veronica’s inherent snobbishness. If there was ever a character who came by haughty naturally, it’s her. I adored this look at Ronnie’s first day.
Instead, we have Jughead, in a typical slouch with cheese dangling between his mouth and a slice of pizza. He stands in a room with furniture covered in sheets, like a manor that is closed for the season. Behind Jughead’s legs is a portrait of little Forsythe, his eyes sad as if it was painted while he watched the house get foreclosed upon. Jughead’s history as the richest, snottiest kid in school and his current incarnation as a disaffected and hungry teen provide great subtext to his choices in the issue. Jughead used to have his own version of Smithers and his own natural haughtiness and now he recognizes it all as bullshit. He associates the admiration of wealth with pain, and he doesn’t want Archie to get caught up in it.
Making Veronica a reality show star is a great narrative choice. This means that she comes to town with an aura of privilege even beyond her father’s money as well as a reason for the teens of Riverdale to be so judgmental. Reality shows give us characters that are facsimiles of real people that we don’t have to grant empathy. We can choose to love or hate them, but we are trained to look for an opportunity to pick apart their words, fit them into an archetype and say “Oh no she didn’t!” to ourselves without worrying about their feelings. The people of Riverdale are usually a kind bunch, but they really don’t cut Veronica a lot of slack. When Veronica tries to make friends with the girls in the lunchroom, they get more and more annoyed at each faux pas. Note the difference between panels four and six. Sheila’s eyes narrow in anger and her friend’s look of concern morphs into disgust.
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