Like I wrote in the intro to Catching Up With Archie Week, Archie Comics have not always focused on Archie. This volume is about characters that used to appear in short strips that ran from the late 1940s to the late 1970s. L'il Jinx was about a rough and tumble little girl and her friends. She frequently ran afoul of Charley, who was her friend and occasional bully, and played with next door neighbors Greg and Russ, her best friend Roz, and rich girl Gigi. The stories also featured her long-suffering dad, and the characters looked like this:
Although I am not old enough to have read these original stories, they appeared frequently in the many digest reprints I read growing up, and I developed a fond regard for this series.
I was curious to see how these characters translated into a more grown up, YA-type environment, and part of me feared the clumsy attempts to update such characters before (exhibit A). I was very pleasantly surprised by this book, and I daresay it is the best thing I have read from Archie this entire week. The story and characters are vibrant and engaging, and the story is fresh, relevant, and enjoyable.
The plot finds these characters starting high school, and there are some major adjustments to be made. Jinx struggles to reconcile her tomboyishness with the behavioral expectations of other high school girls. Additionally, she has a hard time leaving the past in the past.
|Jinx and Charley: Round 1|
There are also various struggles over school politics, popularity, miscommunications, and bullying. Helping matters along, the characters' personalities are projected in simple yet complicated ways, and they are very human, fallible, and mostly endearing. This book could have been very easily akin to a bad sitcom playing for laughs or a boring service announcement presenting issues in a didactic manner, but it became something else. I found it to be very reflective of high school experiences, and I loved how the dynamics between the original characters were updated and enlivened. Still, I do not think anyone would have to be familiar with their history to appreciate how the story unfolds.
All in all, these situations are realistic and well presented, and it seems obvious to me that this creative team has a real love for these characters as well as great storytelling sensibilities. Writer J. Torres has created various wonderful comics in the past, including the autobiographical The Copybook Tales, adventure stories starring Alison Dare, and other comics for the big two comics companies. Eisner Award-winning artist Rick Burchett is known for his crisp, clean lines and his work on Batman and Superman Adventures. Inker Terry Austin is comic book royalty who has worked with almost every major artist at every big company and is probably best known for his run on Uncanny X-Men. None of them are Archie house artists, but their collaboration is expert and accomplished.
Jinx works well capturing the feelings of unease, anxiety, joy, anticipation, and confusion that can arise in high school. I loved so much about it: the art, the characters, their relationship dynamics, and how the situations played themselves out. This book is an absolute gem.