Betty And Veronica #1 Review: Friends? Enemies? Frenemies?

You know, it’s almost funny. For decades, Archie Comics has published a series based around two prominent female characters in the Archie universe, but they have hardly done a storyline that doesn’t mention or revolve around Archie in any way. In fact, I remember reading a story where they hang out around town without discussing Archie, then immediately start giggling about it at home, along with immediately arguing over him again.

The Betty & Veronica comics seem to have a complicated relationship with feminism. One on hand, they’re incredibly sexist by constantly portraying the flagship characters as fighting over Archie and hardly exploring other aspects of their life. (Although it should be noted that some stories have shown Archie stringing them along because it’s funny. I think the reboot eliminated that, fortunately.) On the other hand, when the authors do stop jamming Archie into the narrative, the stories transform into compelling narratives on how Betty and Veronica compare and contrast. One is a daughter of privilege, the other has lived in a small town for her entire life. Betty is naturally friendly and athletic and Veronica worries about how her social life would be if she wasn’t rich.

As for the main story itself, it revolves around a plot that was quite common in the original comics. In the early days, it was ridiculously common for stories to revolve around Pop’s Choklit Shoppe closing. From an unsubtle McDonald’s parody to a simple lack of funds to keep it going, the restaurant constantly had to deal with the threat of closing. At one point, it was even declared a historical landmark. Due to the nature of the series, the status quo would be almost instantly restored, leading to a continued shaky revenue source for Mr. Tate. I’m not quite burned out on the idea, however. I believe that it still has some relevance in our modern era, with the ‘mom and pop store’ (pun intended) being forced out in favor of big businesses and franchises. So how does Adam Hughes do in his premiere issue for the new series? Let’s find out!

I have some mixed feelings about the issue. On one hand, it does briefly talk about Pop Tate’s store being pushed out in favor of bigger and bigger businesses, even outright making a joke about the plots in the above paragraph. I appreciate meta jokes.

On the other hand, the comic doesn’t have nearly enough focus on Betty and Veronica. From the very beginning, it’s other characters talking about them. Hot Dog, Jughead's faithful dog, acts as a Greek chorus, but that seems more apt for a Jughead issue. Instead of a dog narrator, I would have thought that bringing back Betty’s diary would work. You could still have a scene from, presumably, the third issue and lead up to it with Betty’s written flashbacks.

Anyway, from a (urgh) catfight between them and a hypothetical fight scenario, Betty and Veronica  are mostly shown through commentary by male characters and not in their own right, with agency. Additionally, we never hear Betty mention her plan to turn the harvest dance into a fundraiser for Pop. Midge just mentions it, which could have occurred before the flashback, but I wish that it was actually shown.

Finally, I don’t like how Betty and Veronica seem objectified. A lot of the marketing, as well as a chunk of the plot for this issue, is about teasing a ‘catfight’ (again, urgh) between the two. Combining this with Veronica’s rude insults to Betty earlier in the issue, I fail to see how the comic captures their complicated friendship. Again, I think that this would be better explained if the issue was narrated by one or both of them. Additionally, this might be Adam Hughes trying to make fun of himself being seen as a “cheesecake” artist or the expectations of modern readers for a Betty And Veronica story, but two pages of the story are devoted to nothing but Betty and Veronica in bikinis, providing dull exposition. No, really. Out of nowhere, the comic breaks the fourth wall purely for titillation. Betty and Veronica are teenagers, making it even more uncomfortable.

On the plus side, Betty And Veronica #1 is very funny. It has some enjoyable interactions between the main gang, as well as some cute references to other Archie properties. Pop briefly mentions a teenage witch (Who could that be?) and Archie makes an indirect reference to Josie and the Pussycats. I do like seeing Midge and Moose having a supporting role in the issue. Speaking of cameos, even Ethel Muggs appears in the background of the splash page.

To sum up, Betty And Veronica #1 is a jarring issue. I like the basic plot of trying to save Pop’s diner, but the combination of inexplicable fanservice and inexplicable choices make it a very uneven story. The choice of narrator and inordinately large focus on characters other than Betty and Veronica almost make it seem like an “Archie’s Pals And Gals” or “Tales From Riverdale” reboot. I would recommend that you pick it up, if only to support a female-led comic. If you ignore the inconsistencies, then it’s mostly a good read.

Betty And Veronica #1 is written and drawn by Adam Hughes. You can find it at your local comic book shop.

Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or the Harry Potter books.