Betty & Veronica: Vixens  #1

Jamie L. Rotante (script), Eva Cabrera (art), Matt Herms (colours), Rachel Deering (letters)
Archie Comics Publications
Released November 22, 2017

The premise for the new Betty & Veronica: Vixens book might feel familiar, especially if, like me, you’re a fan of DC Bombshells; it’s an alternate-universe reimagining of classic characters that obviously started with little more than a desire to play with a very specific, vintage-inspired aesthetic. Just replace the 1940’s pin-up style with a rockabilly, biker gang look and the World War II setting with a Riverdale in desperate need of protection by women on motorcycles! It’s no wonder the series caught my eye right from the get go. But even in its first issue, it’s clear that Vixens is much more than a flashy premise. 

I’m not sure when this story is meant to be taking place; it seems intentionally vague. Some of the clothing choices seems to suggest it’s the 1950s, but a lot of the crop tops seem a little too… well, cropped. Whenever it is, this comic clearly exists in it’s own continuity separate from other current Archie Comics titles. And yet, it’s not a wholly reimagined world where every single person in town has declared their gang allegiances and agreed that studded leather jackets are the peak of fashion. Rather, Vixens is set in a familiar, if retro Riverdale and features a familiar Betty and Veronica. It’s just that this time, the girls are determined to protect their town from an influx of gang violence in the only way that makes sense: by forming an all-girl’s biker gang. And I can’t say I disagree with their reasoning.

The girls take to the biker life surprisingly well. Betty & Veronica: Vixens issue 1, page 1 by Jamie L. Rotante (script), Eva Cabrera (art), Matt Herms (colours), and Rachel Deering (letters). Archie Comics Publications. November 15, 2017.

The girls take to the biker life surprisingly well. Betty & Veronica: Vixens issue 1, page 1 by Jamie L. Rotante (script), Eva Cabrera (art), Matt Herms (colours), and Rachel Deering (letters). Archie Comics Publications. November 15, 2017.

It was surprisingly easy to believe that B & V would be excited to bike around and kick some ass when needed, or that they’d be good at it. When Betty shyly confides in Veronica about her secret desire to ride a motorcycle, it is sincere and earnest. When Veronica pledges her enthusiastic support of Betty’s plan before even hearing the whole thing, it is wholly believable. And when the girls both realize that Archie and Reggie are never gonna step up, you’re totally on board with their decision to don masks and biker’s leathers to save the town from their boyfriends’ screw ups. Let’s just say this vigilante team’s origin story rings much truer to me than a certain, somewhat familiar plotline on a certain CW show…

Above: Grease, Paramount Pictures. Randal Kleiser (dir). Kelly Ward (Putzie), Michael Tucci (Sonny), Barry Pearl (Doody), John Travolta (Danny), Jeff Conaway (Kenickie), Jamie Donnelly (Jan), Didi Conn (Frenchy), and Dinah Manoff (Marty). 1978. Below: Riverdale Season 1 Episode 4, CW, Mark Piznarski (dir). February 16, 2017.

The South Side Serpents in Vixens have more in common with Danny Zuko and his T-Birds than the Serpents you may be used to on Riverdale. Above: Grease, Paramount Pictures. Randal Kleiser (dir). Kelly Ward (Putzie), Michael Tucci (Sonny), Barry Pearl (Doody), John Travolta (Danny), Jeff Conaway (Kenickie), Jamie Donnelly (Jan), Didi Conn (Frenchy), and Dinah Manoff (Marty). 1978. Below: Riverdale Season 1 Episode 4, CW, Mark Piznarski (dir). February 16, 2017.

For a story that’s technically about gang warfare, Vixens is pretty light-hearted. The South-Side Serpents of this comic have more in common with Danny Zucko and friends in Grease than the Serpents you might be used to seeing on Riverdale, and the opening salvos of the turf war create nuisances, for sure, but are, overall, relatively harmless. That said, there are hints that things in this comic could get more serious, from Archie’s fear at finding out he’s walked into a Serpent bar to Betty preparing her biker gals for violence. The first issue is doing a lot of important set-up work—and doing it well! But I’m excited to see where the series goes.

Archie is clearly afraid of the South Side Serpents. Betty & Veronica: Vixens issue 1, page 13 (cropped) by Jamie L. Rotante (script), Eva Cabrera (art), Matt Herms (colours), and Rachel Deering (letters). Archie Comics Publications. November 15, 2017.

Archie is clearly afraid of the South Side Serpents. Betty & Veronica: Vixens issue 1, page 13 (cropped) by Jamie L. Rotante (script), Eva Cabrera (art), Matt Herms (colours), and Rachel Deering (letters). Archie Comics Publications. November 15, 2017.

The creative team behind Vixens have produced a stellar first issue. Jamie Lee Rotante’s script is tight, and the (sadly limited) action scenes are well paced—also thanks to some truly expert lettering choices by Rachel Deering. Rotante’s  grasp of the characters is impressive. Betty and Veronica’s friendship is the driving force of the first issue (and hopefully the whole series), and Rotante portrays a very authentic and heartwarming bond between the two girls that makes a potentially silly premise feel very real and earned. Eva Cabrera’s artwork is absolutely stunning, especially paired with Elaina Unger’s vibrant colours. Having seen Cabrera’s work before on Kim & Kim (are you reading Kim & Kim? You should be reading Kim & Kim), I’m not surprised. Her style is very clean, yet animated, which lends itself very well to the world of Archie Comics, and her action scenes are dynamic and exciting while still being easy to follow. Her character designs are equally full of life, and elevate the 1950s rockabilly aesthetic from something that could have felt gimmicky into a beautiful and rich world where every stylistic choice is driven by a deep understanding of the characters. I would pay good money to raid Biker Betty’s closet. 

Betty & Veronica: Vixens issue 1, by Jamie L. Rotante (script), Eva Cabrera (art), Matt Herms (colours), and Rachel Deering (letters). Archie Comics Publications. November 15, 2017.

Eva Cabrera’s beautiful artwork and impeccable style makes the characters and world of Vixens rich and layered. Betty & Veronica: Vixens issue 1 cover, by Jamie L. Rotante (script), Eva Cabrera (art), Matt Herms (colours), and Rachel Deering (letters). Archie Comics Publications. November 15, 2017.

All in all, Vixens looks like it’s going to be a giddy, brightly-coloured, girl power story. Veronica gets the final line in this comic, and it sent happy, feminist shivers down my spine. I’m excited to watch the girl gang recruit, grow, and face off with the Serpents. I’m looking forward to learning more about Penny, the ill-treated girl member of the Serpents (I’m hoping she defects to the Vixens). But, perhaps most of all, I cannot wait to see the stunned looks on Archie and Reggie’s faces when they realize that their girlfriends are a hundred times more badass than they are.