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Josie and the Pussycats #1

Written by Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Deodio
Art by Audrey Mok
Published by Archie Comics

I read Archie comics as a kid, and five years ago, I would have rolled my eyes at the thought that anyone was still enjoying this simplistic Americana. Then Archie and Val from the Pussycats had an interracial love story, which opened the doors for new gay teen Kevin Keller. Which brought in grownup readers and supported the masterpiece horror story, Afterlife With Archie. Which translated to the supremely scary Chilling Tales Of Sabrina, the reinvention of Archie as a smart comedy, the tightly creative Jughead, and now this modern take on Archie’s favorite band.

Bennett and Deodio take readers to the beginning this issue, following Josie as she puts together a band with her best friend, Melody, and their new friend, Val. Josie has to learn to drop the ego and work as a band in time to play a set at a concert benefitting, of course, animal rescue. Longtime rival Alexandra is making trouble, and supercute Alan M is waiting in the wings, but the bulk of the book is about the rich characterization of the three bandmates.

This comic works perfectly. It’s a treat for longtime fans of the comic, the cartoon, or the underappreciated 2001 movie version. It also stands alone, even from the other Archie books. The jokes are fast and effective, with new ways to skewer hipster culture, and each woman has a distinct voice. Melody steals every scene with her delightful combination of innocence and savvy, and it’s worth noting that she has both men and women on her phone’s dating app screen. Archie comics has moved sexual diversity to the fore, and having Melody has a bisexual woman without making it melodrama draws positive ties to the spiritual sister book, Jem And The Holograms.

I love this book. I am shocked at how many of my favorite books this year are Archie Comics titles. Even if you’re not reading any of the others, this is an issue to pick up. Then talk to the staff at Ultimate Comics to get it on your pull list, so you can enjoy it every month.

-MATT CONNER for Ultimate Comics