I first encountered Archie Andrews when I was eight years old, at the last place you would expect to meet a red-headed all-American teenage boy: a Jewish sleepaway camp two hours outside of Toronto.

I'm not entirely sure if the unofficial tradition of reading Archie comics is unique to Camp Ramah in Utterson, Ontario, or if it's a Jewish sleepaway camp quirk, or a general North American pastime. What I do know is that the first Archie comic I read was an artifact that had been passed down from generation to generation of mosquito-plagued campers – a dusty issue that held court in a pine cubby during the off-season – and that there's a good chance it was old enough to be a contemporary of my parents.

As a child who was discouraged – at times even forbidden – to read comics by my father, devouring strip after strip and panel after dotted panel was an act of rebellion. When other campers received care packages rife with the updated 90s version of Archie and the gang, I waited – dutifully and painfully – for them to finish and chuck their fresh issues on my bunk. In return, I'd hand them the decades-old digests I had been fiendishly hoarding.

For a friendless camper and a queer Jew who later found refuge in early punk and Philip Roth, it's ironic that my first subversive act was to be found in Riverdale — an America I didn't recognize as my own, populated by a group of people whose religion was the cult of Norman Rockwell.

This is why I felt some trepidation at picking up the first issue of the latest Archie flagship reboot — the latest mainstay in a long line of one-offs, some of which have been obviously gimmicky (the upcoming Archie v. Sharknado, anyone?), some not (the darkly vivid Afterlife with Archie). The truth was, I hadn't touched an Archie comic for years, and although nostalgia colored my opinion of the comic as a whole, I could not deny its flaws.

The same alien factor that had drawn me to the comic all those years ago was one I now knew to be false — an America that never existed, containing teenagers whose most difficult choice in life was choosing whom to bring to the prom. On an intellectual level, I know this hasn't been the case in the recent past (see: Life With Archie: The Married Life), but the 75-year establishment of Archie Andrews has more or less been an establishment built on the America that white affluent suburbanites and small town folks dreamed about. It isn't easily thwarted.

This, more than anything, is why newly minted series, conceived by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples, is so important — it attempts to overturn that illusion. And not only does it succeed: it champions.

In an interview with Vulture, writer Mark Waid pointed out the pros of working with iconic characters like the Archie gang: "That the characters are built with such elasticity that we can go from a broad slapstick ​moment of comedy to a heart-wrenching beat of romantic angst within the turn of a page.​"

Those very real teenage moments are executed perfectly by an acute understanding of the adolescent psyche. The naturalistic tendencies that Waid and Staples employ reinterpret the characters, giving them a better sense of depth and multidimensionality, while retaining an air of familiarity.

The sense of Archie's outdated "nice guy" bravado has disintegrated, and it's been replaced with a sense of self-awareness, and – dare I say it? – adolescent insecurity. He is forced into situations that he understands are complex and not easily solved – yet another divergence from earlier Archies – and anyone who ever went to high school can readily identify with similar first-time experiences.

Indeed, Waid and Staples have stuck with the idea of creating a Riverdale that is thoroughbly recognizable to us, which has come to include the representation of a diverse community.

Supporting characters Kevin Keller (a familiar face, and the first openly gay comic book character in the Archie universe), Maria and Sheila (two new faces) are key plot-drivers who – despite a slight lack of character development (which will probably come in later issues) – display markedly different personality traits and personalized ticks. In short: they're delightful, and a manifested depiction of a true America.

All of this would be impossible without Staples' striking artwork, which might be considered the biggest departure from the flagship line. Like the narrative, the illustrated world is more realistic, featuring nuance and minutae. Most dynamic is Staples' use of light — and the way she never lets us forget that light can be miraculous, a color and a beacon in its own right.

Fittingly, included in Archie #1 is a reprint of the first Archie appearance in history, which first debuted in 1939 in the comedy pulp booklet Pep Comics #22. Reading the original after Staples and Waid's magnificent first issue is unnerving and eerie — showing us an Archie we barely recognize: a rube with a face that looks like a bad Mickey Rooney impression, who falls off fences and tightropes, and insists that his friends call him "Chick."

Though happy to have read it, the dissonance it created between the now and then was jarring. The world of Chick was one filled with salt water taffy and state fairs and a forced sense of innocence. And though Archie #1 still has a sense of its wholesome roots, it also recognizes that Chick's world isn't ours, and never was.

In the end, maybe we can't go back to the old Riverdale again after all — and maybe that's a good thing.

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