The first issue of Archie Comics dates back as far as 1942, meaning their eponymous teen Lothario has been leading Betty and Veronica on for almost as long as Batman and Superman have been fighting crime.

But while his superhero contemporaries are these days given modern cinematic updates every couple of years, Archie seems to have remained a dorky 60s bubblegum throwback - 'Sugar Sugar' and all that - in the minds of all but his most hardcore comic fans.

The inevitable and overdue reboot, which finally arrived last week, might change that. Archie's on Netflix ... and now he's got abs.

K.J. Apa and Madelaine Petsch star in the television series, Riverdale. Photo / CW Network
K.J. Apa and Madelaine Petsch star in the television series, Riverdale. Photo / CW Network

New Zealand's own K. J. Apa stars as the newly-buff main character in Riverdale, a surprisingly well-executed and enjoyable teen drama, which brings the comic into the modern day with a generous amount of irony and self-awareness.

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The first episode is full of knowing nods to the source material: "Archie's swell" Betty's best friend Kevin (introduced as the comic book's first openly gay character in 2010) says rolling his eyes, "... but like most millennial straight guys, he needs to be told what he wants."

There are no small number of teeth-gritting cultural references to reinforce the fact that despite the hazy neon-lit retro aesthetic, these are definitely hip, modern teens. "You should be the Queen Bey of this drab hive," new-in-town Veronica tells Betty. "Any other year you'd be trending number one for sure," Kevin says to Veronica.

The glamorous new arrival at Riverdale High is only trending number two this year because Jason Blossom, one half of the vampiric Blossom Twins, has died in a mysterious boating accident during summer vacation. Riverdale has diversified from Archie Comics' straightforward high school capers - at its heart now lies a noirish, Twin Peaks-lite murder mystery.

Lili Reinhart and Casey Cott in the television series, Riverdale. Photo / CW Network
Lili Reinhart and Casey Cott in the television series, Riverdale. Photo / CW Network

What really happened to Jason Blossom on the 4th of July? The story is told by Jughead Jones, reinvented as a kind of shadowy blogger, hunched over his laptop in the diner or at the back of the bleachers. His narration leads us easily into the new-look world of Riverdale - a moodier, slightly more diverse place than the one in the comics.

While Archie is still embroiled in a weird love triangle with Betty and Veronica - that much is cast in stone for all eternity - here he has also had an illicit summer fling with his music teacher, with whom he exchanges furtive sex-flashback glances across the gymnasium.

Still relatively fresh out of Shortland Street, K. J. Apa makes a fairly convincing American teen heartthrob; his new accent holds up pretty well, though he is a boy of few words compared to the other characters.

Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, and K.J. Apa star in the television series, Riverdale. Photo / CW Network
Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, and K.J. Apa star in the television series, Riverdale. Photo / CW Network

Following in the grand tradition of his on-screen father, Beverly Hills 90210 hunk Luke Perry, Riverdale's Archie is less happy-go-lucky goofball, more of a brooding and sensitive artist, torn between a promising football career and his newfound passion for writing emotionally-tortured songs.

"Can't we just liberate ourselves from the tired dichotomy of 'jock, artist'?" Veronica wonders aloud in one of the first episode's many meta moments. "I'm working on it," Archie mumbles.

It may be a little overwritten at times, but with its fun, stylised mix of slightly trashy high school drama and gothic small-town murder mystery, Riverdale makes a strong first impression.