Archie 19

Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Archie 19, originally released April 19th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Patrick: I’m not really sure how to classify Jughead as a character. He’s like some kind of invincible, infallible spirit, far enough removed from the drama to not be overwhelmed by it, but still incredibly perceptive. I’d be tempted to call it a narrative cheat, but he stands as a necessary foil to Archie’s aching sincerity. It turns out that Jughead’s sprightly insights can cut through more than just the complicated knots of teenage romance. Archie 19 finds Veronica in need of the same kind of detached, magical advice, but this time to free herself from machinations of her own father. And in so doing, Juggy might just open himself up to feel something of his own.

The feeling I’m referring to here, is the titular “P-TOOO!” in chapter two. It’s a spit take, and the first time we see it in the issue, writer Mark Waid is setting up some pretty typical insight from Jughead: Veronica is parotting her father’s buzzy business-speak. Actually, by Jughead standards, it’s a pretty tame observation — she uses both the words “viral” and “disruptions.” So he laughs her. Fine. The audience is already there. But that’s why Jugs is slapping his head and spitting out his shake: he’s so good at seeing through Ronnie’s bullshit that he has to laugh at her. We’ll see that same spit-take at the end of the issue (with an identical sound effect), but this time, Jughead is genuinely surprised and touched.

That’s the Jughead arc — from being able to float above the mess to being sincerely effected by it. I know it might be an easy trick, but I absolutely love all the ways Waid expresses Jug’s untouchability. He’s not just supernaturally insightful, he doesn’t get wet in the rain. But, y’know, no one is an island, not even Jughead, so he’s necessarily interwoven with Archie’s ridiculous drama. The best illustration of this comes when Jughead goes out to give a sulking Archie some encouragement. First of all, Jughead knows exactly where to find him, which isn’t a foregone conclusion — Pops pointedly asks the question only Jughead can intuit the answer to. Once he’s on the scene, Jughead can’t solve everything with this same efficiency. Archie’s already wrapped up in a tent (naturally), and not even Jughead can straighten it out.

There are basically two pages of this, which is great un-related action for the conversation they’re having. But it’s also a thematically resonant sequence wherein Jughead decides he needs to get involved, even if it means making things messy. Artist Pete Woods has some killer poses in this scene, for both Jughead and Archie. It’s a great bit of physical comedy in a medium that struggles to do either action or comedy convincingly.

Hey, can we talk about Smithers for a second? That’s another character I don’t think I had a very good handle on before, but now I get it: he’s a dick. I’m sure it’s like 90% the name, but I always had him read as a put-upon but affable servant. In this issue, Smithers proposes the 21st century equivalent of an arranged marriage to keep Veronica away from Archie. Maybe the most upsetting part about that move is that he does know Ronnie enough to know that if she catches wind of this, it’ll just drive her further into Andrews territory. I wonder if there’s a parallel to be drawn between Jughead and Smithers — both sorta tend to their own business except to meddle here and there. Smithers being an anti-Archie agent and Jughead being a pro-Archie agent, maybe some day it’ll come to blows! A battle of the Above It Alls for the fate of Archie’s love life!

That doesn’t seem to likely. But then again, neither does a friendship between Jughead and the Queen of Drama. Taylor, what do you think? Is Archie right in guessing they won’t be pals for long? Also, I guess there’s some kind of soft reveal about the Blossom Twins’ real father at the end of this issue. I’m a casually-drop-in-on-Archie kind of guy, so that teaser didn’t do anything for me. Is it exciting?

Oh, and most importantly: what kind of high school student is into Bartok quartets? I’m a big fan of the medium (string quartets are so dope, it makes me regret switching from cello to bass in Junior High), and even I have a hard time getting into them. All the great composers used string quartets to be a little more experimental, and Bartok pushes a lot of tonal boundaries without really doing anything interesting with texture or rhythm (with a few exceptions — #4 has an almost Beethoven-ian obsession with a rhythmic lick)… What was I asking? Oh yeah, Max is a fucking dork, right?

Taylor: He’s a total dork, especially since he knew the whole award ceremony was just an elaborate scheme to find Veronica a date. String quartets are great and all, but outside of a musician, what person is going to find that illuminating on a first date. You’re better than this, Max, and you’re probably better than Veronica, too.

But we can’t be too hard on Max here. After all, he’s basically the physical manifestation of the “buzzwords” Veronica’s dad uses to describe her would be suitors. As you pointed out Patrick, Jughead sees through the buzzwords immediately and calls Veronica’s dad on his bullshit.

True though Jughead’s words may be, it’s hard to fathom a universe where him insulting Veronica’s father ends well. Jughead even called Veronica out in front of all her friends at the burger joint, which makes the idea that she doesn’t mind Jughead calling her dad a liar odd, to say the least. This makes the climax of the episode all the more troublesome. When Veronica finds out about her father’s deception, she sides with Jughead since he was the first to see through his lies. However, it seems weird that she would do this. Imagine someone calling your dad a liar to your face. Regardless of however shitty your dad may or may not be, it would be hard to take such a thing with the equanimity Veronica displays in this issue. It’s just a little too far out for me to believe, and the fact that Veronica hasn’t liked Jughead in the past makes it all the harder to fathom.

Maybe that’s the point though: Veronica and Jugehad have little to hold them together, and as Archie’s foreshadowing at the beginning of the issue would suggest, perhaps it won’t last long. Jughead, for the very reasons that make him untouchable, is the most easily dislikable of the Riverdale group since he seems to give so few fucks about the people around him. It’s not hard to fathom a future plot line where Veronica decides she hates Jughead again because he slammed her dad in this issue.

Perhaps that’s taking things a bit too seriously for this issue, though. There are a lot of visual gags in this issue that make it fun to read. There are several instances of this, but I think my favorite might be when Jughead delivers Archie to Veronica balled up in his tent.

The hilarity of this moment is built upon the ludicrous nature of what’s happening. First, the multiple, impossible angles at which Archie’s limbs are sticking out of the tent-ball are grand. There’s no humanly way this is possible but it so effectively accentuates his discomfort. Also, somehow this ball is now huge. It makes no sense for a ball made up out of a teenager and tent to be this big. Once again, the size of the ball makes this moment all the sillier. Lastly, did Jughead roll Archie all the way here? Moments like this cause this issue to be imbued with a humor that’s to be found outside of the plot.

Like Patrick, I’m a drop in Archie fan, so I’m always pleasantly surprised when it rewards a reading with its fun sense of humor. I don’t exactly read Archie for the plot, but as this issue shows, maybe that’s ok.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

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