betty-ronnie-2

by Stefania RuddMy love for Archie Comics runs deep, and with its ambitious and largely successful relaunch –featuring the iconic Riverdale gang transformed into hip and relevant teens of today — it made me happy that many of the books still maintained that familiar Archie charm. Betty & Veronica had me beyond excited, especially when it was revealed that it would come with major cross-promotional tie-ins. (Like a clothing line!) However, after reading (and then rereading and then sleeping on it and then rereading it again), Adam Hughes’ Betty & Veronica #1, I was left disappointed and kind of sad. These gals are my faves, and when I came looking for the duo of tremendous girl power (with the occasional frenemy bickering), I found that the potential wasn’t really there.    

Hughes’ plot is a quintessentially Archie one (Pop’s is closing! Let’s save Pop’s!), which finds Betty leading the charge to save their local hangout with everyone on board except for Veronica, who displays her typical panache for aloof behavior. We discover at the end of the issue that her father has something to do with Pop’s closing (doesn’t he always), which leaves us dangling with a “what will happen next?” cliffhanger, but I’m leery about continuing. I know I will but I’m gonna need the dust to settle a bit. Here’s why.

There were a few things that bothered me overall about the book. The first being its narrator. Is it Betty? Nope. Is it Veronica? Nope. I know I’m pressing here, but is it… Archie? No? The narrative honors go to — of all characters — Hot Dog, Jughead’s shaggy dog. I’m not really sure why this choice was made, or what Hughes is actually trying to say with this choice, beyond giving us insight as to what the teens of Riverdale smell like. (Archie’s hair smells of waffles. Got it.) I mean he might get his own spin-off series (provided there’s a market for such things), but until then wouldn’t you say that the focus of Betty & Veronica should be on Betty and Veronica?

The second thing that irked me was how Hughes intentionally left pages 19 and 20 blank (Hot Dog ate them), filling the void with scads of word balloons (in a book already stuffed to the brim with word balloons) while featuring Betty and Veronica idly chit-chatting in, of all things, bathing suits. Hughes then has the talking dog explain that Betty and Veronica agreed to drop a mountain of exposition on us wearing the teensy things, “in case that was the kind of comic you were expecting.” Was I supposed to be expecting this level of objectification because of Hughes’ past work? I certainly wasn’t expecting a creepy sexual fantasy to creep into an Archie book, after so much work has been done to make the representation of these characters more progressive and universally accessible.

The one thing I really did enjoy is Hughes’ artwork (when he dresses his characters appropriately) and José Villarrubia’s coloring, which is never short of breathtaking. The expressiveness of the character’s faces and little details added a lot to make the book easier to absorb. The colors are soft and muted in browns, yellows, and oranges, fitting considering the book’s autumnal setting. (It certainly gives you the feeling of crisp air and hoodie weather.) There are also a ton of fantastically done variant covers for this issue, which we get to see in one of the back pages of the book. (Check those out here.)

My hope is that there will be some changes made to Adam Hughes’ approach. In the meantime, Betty & Veronica is not the strongest debut for the new Archie line, which is unfortunate considering that with these characters, there remains the potential for something truly great.

Archie Comics / $3.99

Written by Adam Hughes.

Art by Adam Hughes.

Colors by José Villarrubia.

Letters by Jack Morelli.

4 out of 10

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