Tom De Falco (script), Sandy Jerrel (pencils), Kelly Fitzpatrick, (colours), Jack Morelli (letters)
Two issues into the new Reggie and Me comic by Tom De Falco and Sandy Jerrel and I’m not mad? What’s surprising about this is that it has a few things in common with Archie’s reboot of Betty & Veronica, a comic that is not only bad but perhaps also harmful. (It’s so bad.) Reggie and Me, on the other hand, is a firmly YA-oriented comic that humanizes Riverdale’s worst douche-bro without excusing him, and it’s, well, actually kind of good.
Like B&V, Reggie and Me is written by a non-young white man who’s been in business for ages. Also like B&V, it’s narrated by a dog. He’s the “me” of the title and his role as narrator, rather than being a symptom of a lost writer failing for his footing, actually makes a lot of sense here. The difference is all due to the respective writers’ approach to the material. Where Adam Hughes treats Betty & Veronica with leering condescension, longtime Archie writer Tom De Falco approaches Reggie and Me with affection. De Falco has ably shifted gears from the traditional gag-driven hijinks of Archie Comics’ mainline books to a more story and character-driven comic that fits neatly beside Waid’s Archie and Zdarsky/North’s Jughead. It’s not a perfect transition–there are moments when De Falco’s age shows, particularly in the dialogue that’s occasionally riddled with outdated slang–but it’s cute and on brand and completely dedicated to Reggie as malevolent troll with a heart of dented tin.
Reggie’s dog Vader is a tiny rescue who is wholly devoted to the jerk. And although his adoption started as one of Reggie’s schemes, this time meant to gain positive attention from his crush, Midge, he seems to be devoted to Vader in return. Vader acts as companion, co-conspirator, and Reggie’s number one fan. He hates Archie as much as Reggie does and he’s as deep into Reggie’s revisionist, self-hagiography as Reggie is. Vader though, isn’t as mean as Reggie. While he makes the occasional nasty aside and is quick to condemn anyone who wrongs Reggie, he doesn’t really initiative pranks or hate people on their own merits; he participates in Reggie’s plans and validates Reggie’s every mood swing, trusting that because Reggie is good to him. Reggie is trustworthy, overall. Vader and Reggie can’t talk–he’s not a talking dog, just a narrating one–but De Falco and Jerrel make it clear that Reggie’s devotion to Vader is just as strong in return. And we don’t just have to take Vader’s word for it, Reggie’s actions and his body language make clear just how important Vader is to him. This makes Vader not just the perfect dog for Reggie, but the perfect narrator for a comic about self-image, storytelling, and the human complexity of a once stock bully.
The characterization heavy-lifting isn’t just left to Vader’s narration; in contrasting what’s on the page with his often conflicting narration, they make it clear that Reggie is a) awful, b) human, and c) awful. Whereas in B&V, Hot Dog’s narration gives Hughes space to comment on the comic, in Reggie and Me, Vader’s narration is an integral part of the whole. That gap between what’s said and what’s done is exactly Reggie’s MO.
In issue two we learn that Reggie’s hatred of Archie and his disdain for Betty comes from one of his own childhood pranks that went wrong, endangering Archie’s life. After Archie is rescued, Betty chews him out, and Reggie quickly begins to tell himself stories. He didn’t mean it. It was just supposed to be fun. He only did it because he felt left out. These are all partially true. From this incident we learn Reggie’s bullying is motivated in part by feelings of insecurity and abandonment, as well as an inability to make real emotional connections with others. But we also learn that Reggie has a deep streak of malice and responds to moments of insecurity by lashing out at others. Having Vader relay this story, rather than bullshit king Reggie, gives it more immediate emotional resonance and allows us to learn more about Vader and his relationship with Reggie.
It also helps De Falco and Jerrel build towards an even greater moment of emotional vulnerability, because Reggie isn’t yet cut open raw for us. Within the space of two issues they’ve knocked Reggie down with a few personal defeats, even more humiliating because of the delicacy of Reggie’s ego. They’ve also demonstrated Reggie’s resolve to never be publicly vulnerable and to always strike back with assholish tricks–Jerrel’s work is on point here, with Reggie’s face and figure expressing beautifully his emotional highs and lows–with this ego ebb and flow building quickly toward this first arc’s climatic fuckery. It’s clear already that Reggie is planning something big, sure, but it’s just as clear that it will blow up in his face and he’ll only have loyal dog Vader to comfort him.
De Falco and Jerrel’s storytelling is fairly conventional, with all the beats hitting just where you’d expect them to. It’s a bit more new Archie than Jughead in this respect. And while Reggie and Me isn’t exactly revolutionary, it is quietly satisfying–it’s just about what I, and maybe you, want from a Reggie ongoing.