Archie Comics: Big Ethel Energy #1-3
After graduating from Riverdale High, Ethel couldn’t get away from her hometown — and onto her chosen career path — fast enough. When the Mayor of Riverdale pays her handsomely to write a history of the city, she can’t wait to return to take down Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and all the other Riverdale natives who made her life hell all those years ago. The only thing she forgets to consider is… maybe they’ve all changed, too.
While Big Ethel Energy has definitely the usual charm and appeal required for a modern tale set in Riverdale, it goes deeper and to more unconventional points of view (which is obvious by the choice of Ethel, the shy admirer of Jughead, as the protagonist), weighting in emotions and in experiences that put a different frame in the Archie universe. For starters, Archie and his friends start as somewhat of the bullies here, and this comic really sells that apparent dissonance with what we usually understand as the Archie universe, as it unfolds a series of nuanced takes on the different relationships between these characters. I love where Betty fits here, I love how this (for now and I hope for the whole run) maintains Jughead’s uninterest in Ethel (and most probable aromanticism), and I love the way Keryl Brown Ahmed and Maria Li put weight in little gestures, crying eyes, crumpled papers to tell this story more than explicit words, while giving the internal monologue of Ethel the weight it deserves. I have my reservations with the premise (as the chapters unfold, we see a “Ethel learning to empathize with her bullies/them seeing her in another light” approach that could go either way depends on the nuance and approach).
Siobhan’s art is the perfect slice-of-life, indie vibes, details-focused fit for this specific choice of visual narrative, and, as you can guess, carries a big chunk of the weight of this story, with Cazy Le’s cozy colors rounding it up, and always veering towards beautiful, intimate expressions. This new format, with the strong cohesive lettering by Kielamel Sibal, really fits Archie universe’s storylines perfectly, as webcomics seem like the perfect place for gossipy, close-to-heart, emotive but casual, post-teenage soap operas to self-actualize. The team in this book is definitely making me wish we have a whole line of Archie webcomics as good and high quality as this one, and let the classic soap opera comics merge with the new format. Cause, if it’s always this good, it’s more than worth the changes.
Archie Comics: Big Ethel Energy opens the gates of the Archie universe to the webcomic format triumphantly, with a compelling story, perfect winks and emotionally complex art.
Archie Comics: Big Ethel Energy #1-3: Back In Modern Riverdale
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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