On sale now is Archie #616, which contains part one of the "Campaign Pain" storyline, guest-starring President Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. Although the story by Alex Simmons and Dan Parent is way too late to be part of the wave of Obama-exploiting comic books we've seen over the past couple of years, Archie #616 is without question the single best comic to feature the current President and/or Mrs. Palin that we've seen so far. While other books slapped Obama's image on ghastly variant covers or crammed his persona into stories that were variously cute/terrible, Archie's "Campaign Pain" manages to make its sensational guest stars' appearances completely sensible in the world of Riverdale just by availing itself of the classic characteristics of the Archie gang.

In what is doubtlessly the dozenth or so iteration of the premise, the good-hearted, generally hapless and inexplicably seductive-to-women Archie Andrews finds himself ill-prepared for a student council election debate with the shrewd Reggie Mantle, whose visage has been updated to include Spider-Men 3-style emo hair, reflecting his nefariousness. Naturally, Archie is trounced on account of his shocking ineptitude.

Unfortunately for the legitimately superior candidate Reggie, his campaign manager Trula Tryst runs afoul of the impossibly rich and relentlessly vindictive Veronica Lodge, who uses her ample resources to stage a photo opportunity with Barack Obama himself (although the President is unaware of her cunning plan).

And thus, writer Alex Simmons and artist Dan Parent create the first plausible in-universe Barack Obama comic book appearance. They and Archie Comics are to be commended not just for this remarkable achievement in balancing easy media attention with inescapably charming storytelling, but for creating that even more elusive of comic books: the genuinely new-reader-friendly jumping-on point. I haven't read an Archie comic in maybe 15 years, but after reading Archie #616, I am not only reacquainted with these icons of Americana, but am truly curious to see what happens next.

You see, the story gets better when Trula responds in kind to Veronica's tactics, obtaining a similarly dubious photo of Reggie with Sarah Palin....

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