Riverdale Season 3 #4: Family Intrigues

Riverdale Season 3 #4 Cover A by Thomas Pitilli. Written by Michael Ostow, drawn by Thomas Pitilli and Joe Eisma. Published by Archie Comics. June 26, 2019.

Riverdale Season 3 #4

‘Strangers at a Bus Stop’
Micol Ostow (Writer), Thomas Pitilli (Artist), Andre Skymanowicz (Colours), John Workman (Letters)
‘Dead Calm’
Janice Chiang (Letters), Joe Eisma (Artist), Matt Herms (Colours), Micol Ostow (Writer)
Archie Comics
26 June, 2019

After a particularly strong third issue focusing on secondary and tertiary characters, Riverdale Season 3 #4 turns its attention back to the main characters. It isn’t entirely successful in its endeavour.

Riverdale Season 3 #4 Cover A by Thomas Pitilli. Written by Michael Ostow, drawn by Thomas Pitilli and Joe Eisma. Published by Archie Comics. June 26, 2019.

In ‘Strangers at a Bus Stop,’ Betty Cooper finds herself stranded in a storm until Gladys Jones rescues her. They bond over their weird families but then Gladys asks Betty to help her start her business… by doing something that could hurt Jughead. In return, Gladys is more than happy to scare the Farmies away from Betty’s family. Is Gladys serious about this swap? And can Betty go through with it?

This story gives us more of the dynamic between Betty and Gladys that we didn’t get to see in the new season of Riverdale. There’s also a great deal of suspense laced throughout which makes it quite a captivating read. The tie-in with Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train felt a bit on the nose, but this is Riverdale—they are nothing if not obvious.

In ‘Dead Calm,’ Veronica Lodge has taken Reggie Mantle to her father’s boat for a weekend getaway. Though the boat is docked, they’re still enjoying their time together. Until the next morning, when they find themselves inexplicably at sea.

Compared to ‘Strangers,’ ‘Dead Calm’ feels too short, almost unfinished. The second story in Riverdale Season 3 has generally been lighter fare, fleshing out the more intimate moments from the television series, rather than being tied directly into the show’s storyline. Thus far, these stories have come across as self-contained narratives that add context to existing scenes. But ‘Dead Calm’ builds up its plot slowly, much like the first story in Riverdale Season 3 #4, then introduces a scenario that is resolved all too quickly. The reader is left feeling like they’ve only been given a small snippet of a larger tale, and I can’t help but be resentful about it.

I am definitely beginning to enjoy the art in this series a lot more now that I’ve got used to it. But I have to take issue with the cover which has absolutely nothing to do with the contents of the book. What is the point of featuring Archie in boxing mode on the cover when neither he nor his boxing career appear in the stories within? I really don’t like it when comic book covers are so misleading.

But my primary concern with Riverdale Season 3 #4 is that, by focusing on the show’s main characters again, it is doing a disservice to the remaining cast, many of whom are far more interesting. Riverdale’s protagonists get more than enough screen time on the show, and this series hasn’t been able to give any value addition to their stories—instead, it is simply prolonging plots that we have already encountered and seen resolved.

As interesting as it to see Gladys manipulating Betty, what are readers meant to take away from these events? We already know how Gladys’ story ends in Riverdale and that Betty and Jughead prevail. I would have been far more interested in learning how Gladys became a drug kingpin. Leave Betty and Jughead out of the narrative completely, and focus on Gladys before her return to Riverdale.

The same is true of ‘Dead Calm.’ People coming after Hiram Lodge was a running theme in the show—did this issue have to focus on that angle again? Instead, why not give us a glimpse into Reggie’s life? We know so little about him even though he is inextricably linked to the protagonists. Why tie his story into a weekend getaway with Veronica when you could show Reggie’s life at home?

It looks to me like Riverdale Season 3 isn’t leveraging its comic book format. Instead of expanding the universe—which comics allow one to do—this series insists on remaining mired in its existing narrative. There are a plethora of characters and storylines to explore and that is really what I was hoping from this series.

Unfortunately, though we have been given glimpses of its potential, Riverdale Season 3 #4 returns to the series’ tried and tested formula. Despite its promise, this book is a bit of a let-down. Dare I hope that it gets better?

Louis Skye

Louis Skye

A writer at heart with a fondness for well-told stories, Louis Skye is always looking for a way to escape the planet, whether through comic books, films, television, books or video games. She always has an eye out for the subversive and champions diversity in media.