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Archie: Pureheart The Powerful, Vol. 1
posted October 25, 2010

imageCreators: Frank Doyle, Bob White, Mario Acquaviva, Marty Epp, Victor Gorelick, Sal Contrera, Bill Vigoda
Publishing Information: IDW, softcover, 144 pages, August 2010, $19.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781600106880 (ISBN13)

I would have loved to have found an entry point into Archie: Pureheart The Powerful Vol. 1 that somehow convinced me it wasn't the limpest set of archival comics I've read all year, but as of a third reading of this material early today that particular gateway to understanding eludes me. I can see it being a hit with little kids that love the Archie characters so much it's fun to see them play dress-up, like those sitcoms that do a "everybody in the past" episode their fourth year in. I can imagine that at a time when superheroes were in the air to such an extent that even Bob Hope or Uncle Milty might walk out from behind a heavy, Burbank-area curtain in cape and cowl and do three minutes on your passion's obvious absurdities it might have been nice to see Archie and the gang in on the gag, too. I can even conceive of these comics being -- as introduction writer Michael Uslan points out -- a gateway into the world of Riverdale for 1960's boy-children too full of youthful vigor and presented with so many options on the stands not there ten years later to deign to take a peek at the iconic teen comics.

None of these potential historical footnotes makes the comics in which they're embodied worth reading. Despite the crisp professionalism of the artists and gag writers and a few sequences where the superhero setting highlights something weird and/or peculiar about the classic Archie set-up (Reggie adopting a shit-head super-villain persona because he's, well, Reggie; Jughead's goofy power-inducing rhyme; Betty deferring to the more honest hatred evinced by Veronica), these were an absolute chore to get through, with all the satirical sophistication of a local high school's homecoming rally comedy sketch. My takeaway upon considering this bland mess more times that it deserves is that Archie's "Pureheart The Powerful" is kind of a loathsome character, a hero with powers based on his being convinced of his own awesomeness, Marvel's Sentry crossed with one of those delusional idiots that croaks his way through an American Idol audition. If, as Uslan hints, there's some thematic juice to be had in one day bringing back this brief novelty of expression within the larger Archie universe, I'd start there.