Betty & Veronica #1
Jamie Lee Rotante (Writer), Sandra Lanz (Artist), Kelly Fitzpatrick (Colours), Jack Morelli (Letters)
19 December, 2018
Summer’s almost over, but Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge aren’t ready to start school again. Sure, summer may have started with Betty being dumped by Reggie Mantle, a relationship that only Veronica even knew about, but they’ve had a lovely time ever since, trying new experiences and becoming close friends, something they’d never imagined they’d be.
Not only is senior year looming over their heads, Betty and Veronica also have to decide on college. Veronica’s parents have their hearts set on Hitchens U, their alma mater. But it’s a “snooty” place and Veronica would do anything to avoid going there. Meanwhile, Betty hasn’t even settled on a college because they’re all so expensive.
Once school begins, Betty quickly becomes overwhelmed by the impending coursework and deadlines. But a reprieve is on the way—Cheryl Blossom has an invitation to the Pickens U party. This party could kill two birds with one stone by giving Betty a chance to relax and allow the girls to find out more about the university.
However, the college crowd aren’t exactly what Betty and Veronica had hoped they would be. Can they persevere or should they accept that the future they’re looking to create is destined to be intrinsically tied to Riverdale High forever?
I’ve been enjoying the Archie meets Batman ’66 series, but I wanted more Betty and Veronica, so this new series from Archie Comics was just what I needed. I like that it’s about the friendship between the two characters, as they have almost always been positioned as rivals for Archie Andrews’ affection. In fact, early on in this installment, the two girls make a pact not to let Archie get in the way of their new-found friendship.
That, sadly, does not last very long. The boys only make guest appearances in this book, but their presences loom large, nonetheless. The book tries to pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test, but never quite manages to do so. This is particularly infuriating considering that Betty and Veronica are the only ones driving the narrative—there are few male characters, and they barely have speaking lines, but the male presence wheedles itself into the protagonists’ conversations.
This limited series is about Betty and Veronica navigating senior year and making tough choices about their college life, so why is it that their conversations seem to be focused less on academia and more on their love-lives?
I understand that this is a young adult series, but I think we’re well past female characters’ stories being relegated to romance tales, rather than being action-oriented or character-driven. There’s only one moment in this book where I felt we got some real insight into one of the characters, when it is revealed that someone is actually lying about the status of their college applications.
Having said that, I do like the real-world implications of Betty and Veronica going through the college selection and application process. It will definitely resonate with the target audience for this series, many of whom are bound to be at a similar stage in their academic lives. Betty’s very real fears about student debt also make her much more believable, although Veronica wanting to go to any old college so she won’t have to leave her friend does seem a tad simplistic and unrealistic. I doubt most students of Veronica’s social status would be caught dead going to anything but an Ivy League school for further studies.
The art in this book is vastly different from the Archie comics many older readers would be familiar with. The characters look very different and much more mature. Gone are the big saucer eyes and the crazy hair, replaced by much more contemporary stylisations. I did feel at times that the characters looked a bit bobble-headed, but for the most part the art felt consistent.
I like that artist Sandra Lanz gives each character a distinctive face and features instead of simply using a template for the majority of characters. It makes the comic’s world feel that much more realistic.
Where the realism ends is in the lack of prominent characters of colour. Archie Comics barely have any people of colour as it is, but this book completely erases the few that already exist. You only get to see people of colour in the background, and that, too, in barely a handful of panels. I did find this disturbing, especially considering that the TV show Riverdale has tried to diversify its characters. I would have loved for a Latinx Veronica and an Asian-American Reggie to appear in this book, but alas, they seem to be classically Caucasian. This is disheartening, especially for young readers of colour, who will once again see themselves written out of popular culture. One can only hope that this will be rectified in coming issues.
I have been in love with Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colours since the Archie meets Batman ’66 series, but here her work is much more muted. There is a vibrancy in the other series that is more tonally in line with the original Archie comics, whereas this more modern take is decidedly somber. Despite the change in tone, Fitzpatrick still manages to bring the world to life through a diverse pallet of colour, adding richness and texture to Lanz’s detailed world.
As a first foray into a new year for Betty and Veronica, this was a smooth read, but it left me wanting more for our heroines. They needn’t be tied to boys to be interesting—they’re smart, capable, and independent girls and they should be allowed to own it.