On the off chance that you thought the awesome craziness of the Archie universe was limited to the character's grown-up version
, think again: This week also saw the release of "Archie & Friends" #146
, kicking off the four-part "Twilite" saga in which Riverdale High gains two new students, Ivan and Jared, who immediately become new competitors for Betty and Veronica's affections.
Also, they're a vampire and a werewolf, respectively.
Archie's attempts to catch up to pop culture trends have tended to lag a little behind the curve in the past. Their fairly recent "High School Musical" parody was released over a year after "High School Musical 3" hit theaters, and while a few recent covers have made jokes about teenagers and text messaging, they read like they were created by someone with only the vaguest idea of what texting actually is
. In fact, before now, I think the previous winner for the timeliest joke in a modern Archie book was Jughead rocking a "Don't Taze Me, Bro!" t-shirt...
...which cropped up a mere fourteen months after the incident in question. But maybe Jughead's decided to dabble in hipsterism by wearing only the most ironic t-shirts.
Lately, though, things seem to have been picking up. Between this and July's parody of "Jersey Shore"
that cast Reggie as The Situation, they've been catching up. And I've got to say that it's paying off, because this is one of the funnier Archie stories in the past few years, and it's done with a pretty sharp eye. The cover, for instance, is a nod to the "New Moon" movie poster...
...except that Veronica, being Veronica, seems way more smug about having Riverdale's Favorite Teen and one of the more hunky examples of the Undead fighting over her than the habitually blank-faced Bella Swan.
Once you get to the story, though, things pick up, and my favorite bit is right at the beginning, where -- in Typical Archie fashion -- the creators have to establish not only that the characters are aware
of "Twilight," but what it actually is
, which is accomplished by having Betty and Veronica watching the Archie Universe's version of the film...
...which is called "Cloudy With a Chance of Vampires."
And as someone who has actually read
"Twilight," I can confirm that yes, that is a way
more awesome name for the book.
Once that's established -- and with the sort of coincidence that you pretty much just have to roll with in Archie books -- the new students are introduced, and while it's pretty clear from the start that Ivan's the bloodsucking fiend, it's the extroverted Jared's dietary habits that get a mention:
I love Miss Grundy's disapproving frown at his line about sleeping in class. I don't know where you transferred from, buster, but Riverdale High doesn't take this sort of nonsense from students that don't have checkerboard hair and/or felt crowns.
Anyway, in a further example of how coincidence is Riverdale's #1 export (their #1 import being, of course, milkshake glasses with two straws), Jared and the suspiciously Angel
-esque Ivan have transferred from the same school, and in no time, Jared sets about telling everyone that Ivan is, in fact, a vampire, with the evidence being that he dresses in dark colors and can throw a frisbee really
The first time I read through this, I initially thought that actually believing their new classmate was a vampire would make Archie & Friends quite literally the dumbest teenagers in the history of the world, but then I remembered that this is Riverdale we're talking about, and over the past 70 years, that town has seen more than its fair share of vampires...
...and whatever the hell this guy is...
...that they'd actually be dumber if they didn't
go ahead and accept the fact that the nosferatu
were in their midst.
In true "Twilight" fashion, Jared and Ivan seem to have a long-running feud, although theirs seems to manifest itself less in Jacob and Edward's mystical race war and more in just playing pranks on each other on field trips, but when Jared attempts to lock Ivan in the bat exhibit while Archie's class is visiting the zoo, Ivan ends up both revealing that Jared has his own secret (I'm guessing one that begins with "L" and ends with "ycanthropy") and confessing the truth to Veronica.
And this being Archie Comics, the truth involves a lot less blood-drinking than you might think:
Putting aside the fact that the whiny, perfectly coiffed, non-threatening type actually is
the kind of vampire you see in the movies these days, the hand-waving magic I-Don't-Eat-People potion was another thing I initially raised my eyebrow over, but come on: Is that really
any more ridiculous than a vampire who turns into a Lisa Frank drawing in sunlight and drives a Volvo
? I think not.
In fact, I'm willing to say that this is the first time ever that an Archie parody was actually way better
than the source material. It's unquestionably the best use of vampires in an Archie book since.... well, since this summer's "Betty the Vampire Slayer vs. Vampironica
," but to be fair, it's pretty hard to top a story where Veronica dresses up like Vampirella.