Writer and Artist: Adam Hughes
Let’s just get out of the way the fact that the new “upgraded” Archie sometimes can’t help but invoke the grim Afterlife with Archie. Adam Hughes’ Betty & Veronica includes overt inclusion of Hot Dog (the first victim of the zombie plague), references to a Halloween dance and sexy nurse costumes (which Betty was wearing in Afterlife), and a joke about murdering Reggie Mantle. Surely this wasn’t Hughes’ intent, but some of the coincidences are a little too on the nose, and maybe the publisher wants to nip in the bud any conspiracy theories that “modern” Archie is just a giant prelude to the undead series.
Anyway…Betty & Veronica is the long-awaited and semi-controversial project by Hughes, and here it is. (Readers may not remember that the comic was originally conceived of as being kickstarter-funded, a plan which eventually fell apart.) Is it worth the wait? Mostly. As far as upgraded teen-drama comics go, Betty & Veronica does the same thing as many of the other modernized Archie comics: it takes the core concept and makes it a little more serious and a little less silly. In this case, it’s a prototypical Archie-plot where Betty leads Riverdale’s kids on a quest to save Pop Tate’s restaurant from a buyout by an evil Starbucks analogue that’s sweeping the town. Veronica’s role in all this would be a spoiler–but the first page blatantly foreshadows that this story will be a Betty and Veronica conflict, and the point is driven home by Archie and Jughead debating who would win in fights between various pop culture icons.
Hughes’ art is its usual charming self, striking the right balance between cartoon and realism and easily capturing the charm of small-town Riverdale. His only flaw might be that these kids look a little too adult and not quite teenage enough. However, Hughes’ writing is also just fine, crafting a believable-if-typical Archie story of a conflict between small-town tradition and corporate conquest. We’ve seen this plot a million times in pop culture, but Hughes keeps it fresh.
The big drawback is that Hughes pushes the envelope just a little too often, mostly in the story being narrated by a psuedo-intellectual Hot Dog. This might be cute if it wasn’t so annoying, making an excessive effort to be witty. This problem repeats with a joke about some missing story pages which, honestly, is just an excuse to substitute a page of Betty and Veronica in their swimwear.
That aside, Betty & Veronica #1 puts the series off to a mostly good start which is a worthy addition to modern Archie. As a bonus, the book includes some reprints of classic “house” B&V stories to remind us that the classics are still out there and still relevant. For the diehard Archie fan, this is worth a look.
Rating: Four hair-pulls out of five.