Writers: Ian Flynn (recap script), Mark Waid (original series writer)
Coloring: Andre Szymanowicz, Jen Vaughn, Kelly Fitzpatrick
Lettering: Jack Morelli
Original Publication: Archie, Vol. 1, No. 699
Cover Date: November, 2018
On-Sale Date: October 3, 2018
Length: 20 pages
After the relative success, I suppose, of Mark Waid’s 32-issue run of New Riverdale Archie, it was decided things would go in a new direction when writer Nick Spencer took over the title. For one thing, the Archie title would resume “legacy numbering”, reverting to the count that Archie would have been at, if it hadn’t been rebooted in 2015. They’re even calling it “Vol. 1” in the indicia. Also, the writing style is basically Riverdale Lite. There’s a mystery involving Reggie’s dad and Jason. However, that kinda gets lost in favor of the central premise: Archie and Sabrina having a secret relationship. They even temporarily retitled the series Archie and Sabrina – but only after the first five issues of this ten-issue storyline had already been published). They’re going to retitle it again to Archie and Katy Keene (and perhaps reboot it with a new #1) when Archie starts dating Katy Keene in the next storyline.
If all of this sounds like typical corporate comic-book bullshit to you, well, it is. The thing is Archie Comics hasn’t been known for this until recently. When new leadership took over at the company, they began to diversify with horror AUs and superhero crossovers. New Riverdale started in 2015, but there’s really no inter-title continuity. What happened in Jughead or Betty & Veronica or anything else had no bearing on what happened in Archie. Hell, let’s look at all of the titles that have come and/or gone since Nick Spencer’s run started in Archie #700 on November 21, 2018: Archie 1941, Jughead: The Hunger, Archie Meets Batman ’66, Vampironica, Betty & Veronica (Senior Year), Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Riverdale: Season 3, Jughead: The Hunger vs. Vampironica, Blossoms 666, Jughead’s Time Police, Archie: The Married Life – 10th Anniversary, Archie vs. Predator II, Archie 1955. Even if you weed out all of the obviously AU titles, what’s left doesn’t impact Archie in the slightest. Also, five-issue miniseries seem to be the new norm at Archie Comics, which means Archie is the “main” New Riverdale continuity at this point, meaning it’s the only one that “counts” in the long term.
Except even that isn’t really true, and that brings me to the subject of today’s review: Archie #699. Coming out nearly three months after the end of Mark Waid’s run, it was billed as a “primer” to get readers caught up on what’s been happening in Riverdale (“the saga so far…”). To that end, it set about to recap the first 32 issues of the rebooted Archie, which ran from July 8, 2015, to July 11, 2018 (3 months and 3 days). This thing was sold for “only $1.00”, so the maximum amount of readers could be caught up by the time that Nick Spencer began his run on November 21 (and also because it would be really hard to justify a $3.99 cover price for an issue featuring no new artwork and also the thinnest of stories). So how well does it do? Read on to find out!
As I said, this issue features no new artwork, although it does feature of a framing device of Archie narrating to the reader (he often broke the fourth wall in Mark Waid’s run) while walking around Riverdale High. To illustrate this, they repurposed old artwork, probably from Archie #1. It starts with Archie welcoming the reader back to Riverdale and saying a lot of crazy shit’s gone down lately.
He mentions the three loves that he had in his life: music, his (piece-of-shit) car, and Betty Cooper.
He recaps his childhood with Betty and then gets into the #LipstickIncident from the early issues of the run (Archie got upset at Betty for being dolled up with lipstick, saying it doesn’t belong on her, so she angrily marked him up with lipstick and said he’s still him). Apparently, Riverdale High “went nuts” with the #LipstickIncident.
He talks about the “amazing” Veronica Lodge moving to Riverdale (it was “love at first sight”) and him accidentally knocking down the Lodges’ mansion-in-progress.
He talks about Ronnie’s “adjustment period”, where she had to learn to not be a bitch.
He talks about Mr. Lodge (who hated him) and Reggie (who’s hated him since kindergarten).
He talks about how Mr. Lodge ran for Mayor of Riverdale against Mr. Collier (Betty’s uncle, Riverdale High teacher, and “icon of the town”). Ronnie had recorded Mr. Collier exploding at Archie. Since she worked for her dad’s campaign office, you can see where this went (although Ronnie wasn’t at fault).
Mr. Collier was chased out of town. Riverdale “almost tore itself in half”. All of this ended up being completely pointless, though, since Mr. Lodge got “crushed” in the election, much to his shock.
In response, Mr. Lodge packed everything up, moved his family out of town, and sent Veronica away to a private boarding school in Switzerland, where she met Cheryl Blossom (I covered two issues from that period).
Even Archie thinks Cheryl is “bad news”. He relates how Ronnie got her dad to buy out Clifford Blossom’s business (Blossom-Comm). It’s “the biggest buyout in tech history”. Oddly, Mr. Lodge’s business is called Lodge Corporation, whereas it’s usually Lodge Industries or Lodge Enterprises (sometimes both in the same storyline). The side effect is the Blossom family got transplanted to Riverdale.
So Cheryl and Jason “vowed vengeance” against Archie. Cheryl tried to win Archie over with gifts for him and his friends, and it “almost worked”.
Cheryl was too mean-spirited for her own seduction plan to work (she laughed at a dirty Archie). Ronnie had convinced her dad to let her come back to Riverdale and worked extra hard to return early. She and Archie got back together.
Archie recaps the “Over the Edge” storyline, where Reggie talked Archie into a drag race. Archie wanted to shut Reggie down and “be a hero”. Betty had helped Archie get his Mustang into shape, and (he guesses) she felt betrayed when she found out about the race. She got in her car and tried to get to him in time to talk him out of it, but this resulted in a three-way crash.
This resulted in Betty being paralyzed from the waist down, despite the fact that the artwork showed Archie’s car hitting her car on the driver’s side but in front of her, not the driver’s seat. Fred and Mary grounded Archie. Hal barred the whole Andrews family from seeing Betty. Reggie got arrested and led away from his house in handcuffs (his mom fell to her knees in sadness just outside the front door).
Betty’s friends volunteered to take over everything that she’d been doing (they’re going with the ever-popular Betty-as-Relentless-Dogooder portrayal), and they held the Betty Cooper Candlelight Vigil at 9:00 PM in Riverdale Park. It was attended by “everyone in Riverdale”. Archie says Betty “really was the heart of this town”.
Archie gave Hal money to help out. Betty (who got better) turned Archie away, because she didn’t think his feelings were genuine, and Ronnie cut him off, so he could be with Betty. He somehow managed to anger and/or injure a bunch of other girls and remained unattached.
There seems to be a hiccup where Archie drops one of the things that he was talking about and abruptly shifts to the final storyline of the run. Clifford lost the Blossoms’ fortune and accidentally let out that he wasn’t Cheryl and Jason’s biological father. While locked up, Reggie met Ed Sheers, their real father. Reggie threatened to blackmail the Blossoms.
Sheers broke out of jail and took Riverdale High hostage during a dance. He wanted the Blossoms’ money. Archie and the gang had a plan to take Sheers down and save Cheryl and Jason “on purpose”. Reggie managed to steal the moment (by playing an electric guitar) and act like a big hero. Reggie’s parents were stunned. Archie wonders what Reggie will do with his “new hero cred”.
The final page returns us to the present. Archie sits on top of a Welcome to Riverdale sign, wraps up his “wild” story, admits he skipped over a bunch of stuff (a footnote tells us to see the first six volumes of the Archie trade paperbacks), looks forward to the future, and waves goodbye to the reader.
The next three pages are the first three pages of Archie #700 as a “sneak peek” / “special preview”. Then there’s an ad for the Archie trades (Volume 6 went on sale a week after this issue came out). Then there’s an Archie #700 cover gallery.
So I admit I haven’t read past the first 14 issues of Mark Waid’s run, although I am familiar with the later storylines. This seems like a decent recap of the events.
But let’s pause and consider what this means. Archie Comics is stating these 32 issues are still canon for what’s to follow. If Nick Spencer’s run is senior year, then that means Mark Waid’s entire 32-issue run (which took 3 years to come out) is junior year. If Nick Spencer’s run is junior year, then the entirety of Mark Waid’s run has to be crammed into the spring semester of sophomore year (since that’s the earliest that students typically turn 16 and thus are eligible to drive). That’s insane, and it supports my theory that long-form storytelling such as this is ill-suited to the Archieverse, since storylines that take up little in-universe time stretch out over not just multiple seasons but multiple school years. Hell, Nick Spencer’s Archie and Sabrina storyline started in the fall semester of the previous school year and has yet to wrap up, yet very little in-universe time has passed.
Anyway, back to the issue at hand. How much of what’s covered is relevant in the Nick Spencer era?
Pretty much nothing. Seriously, I don’t even remember the details of the beginning of this storyline, but I don’t recall many – if any – references being made to anything that happened in Mark Waid’s run. It’s amazing how quickly that stories can become irrelevant in the Archieverse, going from “all of this happened” to “some vaguely similar shit vaguely went down in the past…maybe”. It reminds me of the packaging of various “essential” episodes of The X-Files on DVD to get viewers caught up for when the second movie came out, and then it turned out to be just a monster-of-the-week story. Oh, well, it is what it is: a way for Archie Comics to make a quick buck – literally.