There have been a lot of efforts lately to give Archie a gritty makeover. Set his comic in present day with present day angst, give him a moody TV show where he’s having an affair, throw him in a zombie apocalypse where he has to kill to survive; it seems no one is satisfied with keeping Archie the same, wholesome, pure boy he was all those years ago. That is, no one but Art Baltazar and Franco, though with an emphasis on Archie being a boy. The dynamic duo that brought us such gems as Tiny Titans and Itty Bitty Hellboy are back, crayon in hand, to bring us some one-shot fun in the way that only these two creators can.
Little Archie (Archie Comics)
Little Archie is another in the series of kid-versions of famous properties that Baltazar and Franco have made their names on, and everything that you’d want from the pair is here. Adorable, chibi-esque interpretations of the whole gang? Check. An adorable story about the mischief that Sabrina’s magic cat gets Archie into? Check. Adorable attention to detail in such things as getting ready for the day?
It’s actually a difficult book to review because any attempts at criticism get hugged away by its cuteness. Sure the story is light, but that’s the point! I suppose they missed an opportunity to have Betty and Veronica fighting over Archie, but the book didn’t really have room for their squabbling, and really, it was nicer to see them not at each other’s throats. There are really only two complaints that can really hold any water, and even then, neither counts against the book very much. While Franco and Baltazar have an iconic style that is just such a simple pleasure to see on the shelves, the two of them have been riding the “little” train for quite some time. If you’ve read everything in their canon, then nothing about Little Archie will surprise you. What it says on the cover, you get on the inside. And while that isn’t a deterrent for new readers, and really, most previous fans, it does mean that this book lives on ground they’ve tread before.
My other nitpicky complaint is that, while a lot of the fun of these “little” one-shots is to see your favorite characters wholesome-ized, Archie has always already been pretty wholesome. To put a character like Archie through zany trials and tribulations doesn’t quite subvert expectations as much as, say, seeing a giant Nazi gorilla slip on a banana peel in Itty Bitty Hellboy. Again, another potential weakness in the eyes of my fellow long time fans, but certainly not a disqualifier.
One of the things that makes Archie such an enduring character is his chameleon nature. Whether he’s tooling around his jalopy, meeting The Punisher, or solving a murder on cable, Archie Andrews is never out of place, and Little Archie further proves this to be true. Though, who really expected this primary-color, crayon world version to be anything but adorable? As Baltazar and Franco always say, “Aww-yeah!”