Category: Comics and Graphic Novels

Welcome to Riverdale

As a relatively new, British comic book reader, the Archie comics are something that have been on my periphery for a while, but that I’ve never really paid attention too. The Archie comics have been running since the 1940s, and focus primarily on Archie Andrews, small-town American high schooler, and his various friends and love interests. In a medium filled with caped crusaders and Norse gods, Archie and his pals didn’t immediately jump out at me.

Fade in on me, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, looking for something to pop on Netflix while I worked. I chose Riverdale, a live-action retelling of Archie from The CW, an American network that have found some success on both sides of the Atlantic with programming such as comic book adaptations Supergirl, Arrow and The Flash.

Comic books and superheroes have been in vogue for a while both on the large and small screen, but it’s a lot easier to attract an audience to a comic book show that’s about beating the bad guys, than to one about going to school.

Riverdale needed a hook that its source material doesn’t have – a subtext that the story can be built around that doesn’t necessarily occur in the comics, so they chose murder.

The series opens with the disappearance of Jason Blossom, the popular, high-school quarterback from an affluent family; soon he will be found dead, having been shot and pulled from the lake he vanished in.

As ever, when a murder happens in small-town America, everyone becomes a suspect, and this who-dunnit becomes the thread around which the other narratives are built.

We also experience the more usual Archie fair, such as the closure of the local drive in theatre, the competition to crown the new quarterback, and the usual teenage angst – will Archie (K.J. Apa) fall for next door neighbour Betty (Lili Reinhart) or new girl Veronica (Camila Mendes)?

But Riverdale retains the darker edge – we learn about a student-teacher affair, about a potentially villainous biker gang, about corruption in local politics, and about Polly, Betty’s mentally ill older sister.

This all blends together to build a genuinely enthralling TV show – reminiscent of hits like The O.C. – where the mundanity of life is often juxtaposed with the more outlandish story lines. I am curious to see how the writers maintain these stories throughout the rest of the series, and what on earth they can do moving forward. Usually an unexplained murder is enough to fuel a series on its own, let alone a teacher sleeping with a student or any of the other storylines we’ve seen so far.

With Riverdale, Netflix has another solid show to add to its repertoire – its perfect popcorn TV, nothing too complex to concentrate on, and nothing too emotionally taxing, just enough of a puzzle to lead you into the next episode. In the era of appointment TV, Riverdale is the perfect lazy Sunday viewing.

Comic book museum and The Couriers

So yesterday, my friends and I visited the Musée de la bande dessinée, put simply, a comic book museum.

Those of you who know me will know that over the past year I have slowly but surely been getting into reading comic books and graphic novels.

Spurred on be the recent influx of comic book films (your Batmans, Avengers and so on, as well as the likes of Sin City) my comic book readings started with some of the classics of the genre, the likes of Watchmen, as well as some of the more well known Marvel and DC titles, such as Batman: Year One.

So a sunny day in Angouleme saw the twelve of us descending the town’s hill side, down a slightly treacherous path leading to the town’s Paper and Comic book museums. Fortunately, for at least some of the members of our group, the paper museum was shut for lunch, meaning that at least for the day, we missed out on the exciting world of paper manufacturing.

Thankfully the comic book museum remained open and, for the reasonable price of €7 each, we spent an hour or two exploring a pretty awesome museum, which, as you might have guessed, I really rather enjoyed!

The museum started with an exhibit on the Moomin, a comic and TV show I remembered from my youth. I won’t lie to you, the Moomin used to freak me out! However, it was interesting looking at the exhibit, and translating what I could from the French descriptions.

The main area of the museum was a more detailed look at the history of comic books, listing the likes of Mad Magazine, Tin Tin, and of course, given that Angouleme is its birth place, the Asterix comics.

This section was right up my street, and it was even better given that there were cards with English descriptions, rather than French. One section even impressed me so much that, later that evening, I visited and purchased a copy of Maus, a graphic novel  based on the Nazi concentration camps, with Cats playing the Nazis, and Mice playing the Jews.

On the whole, the trip to Anglouleme, and the comic museum, will probably go down as one of my favourite days of the trip, and inspired me to pick up the Graphic novel I brought with me to France, The Couriers.

The story depicts the near-future world of New York City where two gun toting couriers deliver questionable goods by questionable means. Very heavily influenced by the Hong Kong style of cinema and Japanese manga style comics, The Couriers is an action driven graphic novel that returns the artform of comic books to its pulp/action oriented stories, albeit with an updated modern feel.

I pretty much devoured the relatively thick graphic novel, which has four stories from The Couriers time line: The Couriers, Dirtbike Manifesto, The Ballard of Johnny Funwrecker, and Couscous Express.

Ballard was probably my favourite of the four, showing the origins of the two protagonists and showing how an origin story can be done correctly, adding insight to characters you already know, and filling in a couple of blanks in the their histories.

The Couriers is a book I highly recommend. It has a unique art style that, at first, I feared I wouldn’t enjoy, (I tend to stay away from monochrome in favour of a more colourful palette) yet I found myself drawn in to the hustle and bustle of the New York streets, and the action sequences certainly weren’t dampened for want of colour.

The Couriers is a great example of how comic books and graphic novels can thrive, away from the overshadowing Marvel and DC universes. In this case, Image is the publisher, and The Couriers is another reason why they are fast becoming my favourite.

Spurred on by our trip the museum, I intend to blog about/review more comics and graphic novels as soon as I get my hands on them. In fact, if all goes to plan, there will be a list in the side bar of things you can expect to see reviewed very soon.

So, I will sign off this half diary post, half review, and leave you with encouragement to read more, and go to more museums!