‘Sup readers? It’s the end of another interminable work week (sorry if you work weekends!), which means that it’s time for another round of On The Shelf. If you don’t know, On The Shelf is Fan Fest’s (usually) weekly book review column, in which I read a brand new piece of literature and try to decide whether it’s worth showing off on your shelf. My opinion, of course, is subjective, and if you love a book I’ve previously disregarded, that’s awesome! I love when people love books, even if they weren’t my thing. Differing opinions make the world go ’round.
Probably, the only rule I have for this column (which has been broken before) is that I don’t buy physical copies of books for review. They’re either an ebook purchase, or kindly sent to me for review; this doesn’t apply to comics and graphic novels, for reasons beyond my comprehension (my only defence is that comics are a completely different ball-game. If the story wasn’t what I was expecting, the art might make up for it, or vice-versa). Naturally, this causes my wallet to grumble when I stumble upon an untested graphic novel I can’t justify keeping, but that’s not the case this week! Oh no, this week’s book is a surefire bet on the shelf. This week’s book is none other than *drum roll please…!*
Archie Vol 4: Over the Edge, written by Mark Waid (I don’t want to say he’s the Prince of comics, but he approaches his craft with such versatility, no matter the character or storyline, that I’m just going to say it. He’s the Prince of comics) with art by the uber-talented Pete Woods. If you’ve read the ongoing Archie series, you know it’s so far been a revolving stable of some of the best of the best artists in comics— Fiona Staples, Veronica Fish, Annie Wu, Joe Eisma, Pete Woods, etc.— all united by Mark Waid’s strong, clever voice as a writer. In an interview with CBR, Waid admits that he’s been a fan of Archie since 1990, when he worked there, and swiftly read all of the backlogged material he could get his hands on. His approach to revamping Riverdale has always clearly been a 50/50 split between being a loyal fan and a consummate professional in his field; he made-over the familiar faces of that old familiar town, but let them grow, change, and keep the qualities that audiences fell in love with in the first place. Girl-next-door Betty Cooper is still infallibly good-natured, determined to see the best in everyone; Jughead Jones is still a wry, atypical teen who scoffs at social norms; Veronica Lodge is a spoiled, rich Daddy’s Girl who learns to care about people rather than status; Reggie Mantle is still rotten to the core; Archie Andrews is still the relatable everykid who wants to be everybody’s buddy. Waid has respected, enhanced, and embraced these characteristics, shaping them for a modern audience that, so far, seems to have no complaints with the shakeup of the generationally-beloved material. Even if you’ve never picked up an Archie comic in your life and only know the gang from The CW’s Riverdale, you will fall in love with this series.
Archie Volume 4: Over the Edge is the perfect example of what this run has accomplished: Riverdale is no longer a utopian town frozen in time, every punchline played for laughs, only to be reset by the next issue. The decisions these characters make have far-spinning consequences that shape the story as it moves forward. The story actually feels like a story instead of a newspaper comic strip.
I don’t want to say too much about Over the Edge because it collects issues 18-22, and the whole Over the Edge story arc is one of the most explosive in Archie Comics’ history. But what I can tell you is this:
Archie Andrews and Reggie Mantle are like oil and water, teeth knocking against teeth. Archie is loved by everyone in town (save Hiram Lodge); Reggie is equally reviled (even by Hiram Lodge). But their long-time rivalry comes to a head in Over the Edge when Reggie challenges Archie to a street race and Archie, foolishly, accepts. Desperate to save Archie from himself (Reggie not so much), Betty gets involved, creating The Perfect Storm. Tragedy inevitably strikes, shaking the town of Riverdale to its very foundation.
Over the Edge kicks everything up a notch, and feels like a huge leap forward in a series that took great strides to begin with. There’s a real sense of urgency, a feeling that everything has changed— and not everyone survives unscathed.
On The Shelf Rating: 5 thoughtless teenage decisions with terrible consequences out of 5.