Title: Veronica #202
Reviewed by: Adam
I’ll start this review by being perfectly honest: I’ve never read a single issue of anything in the Archie Comics universe. I certainly knew of the characters, but the extent of my knowledge was gleaned from that scene in Chasing Amy, where Holden, Banky and Hooper sit around a bar and argue whether or not “Archie was the bitch and Jughead was the butch.” Still, when I read several months ago that a gay character was being introduced into the wholesome world of the Riverdale gang in an upcoming issue, my interest was piqued. What I hadn’t considered when I agreed to review said issue was that I had to enter a comic book store, stroll up to an actual Comic Book Store Employee and slap issue #202 of Veronica down on the counter.
Every time I enter a comic shop, I sense the employees eyeing my purchases, determining whether I am worthy. Don’t even try to tell me they’re not. And yes, I acknowledge it’s possible I’m simply frequenting the wrong comic book stores. Or that I’m insane. Regardless, it was with much trepidation that I approached the register. I felt a nervousness that was not dissimilar to the first time I bought porn. I even called upon the old “camouflage” technique in an attempt to save face, sandwiching my intended purchase between several butchier titles: Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, Secret Six and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (hey, that’s what constitutes butchier in my mind, all right?). Though, when you’re talking about the kind of comic book that has a break in the middle of the issue for a “Veronica’s Smart Style!” fashion spread, pretty much anything is a step up the ladder of manliness.
Even once I got back to my apartment with the issue in hand, I was not safe from scorn. My roommate rolled her eyes when I proudly displayed my purchase. “Have we gone back in time? Is this the 50s?” Then, when I idly asked my boyfriend how long Archie Comics have been around, exactly: “I’m pretty sure dinosaurs sat around in their free time, reading the latest Archie Comics.” Clearly I need a better support system in my life.
But on to the issue itself: I have to say, if you held a gun to my head and asked me to predict what an issue of Veronica would be like, this is just about exactly what I would have guessed: bright, colorful and mildly amusing. It was very…pleasant. The story concerns the arrival of new student at Riverdale High, Kevin Keller. While Kevin and Jughead bond over their shared fondness for shoveling obscene amounts of meat into their mouths (otherwise known as a hamburger-eating contest; and yes, the gay guy wins), Veronica is instantly smitten with the attractive young man. She decides that she will stop at nothing until she gets a date with the “hot tamale.” Kevin informs Jughead early on that he likes dudes (prompting a nice, positive non-reaction from Jughead), but Jughead, feeling bitter about Veronica insulting his burger-eating abilities, creates excuses for Kevin to delay breaking the news to his would-be suitor (suitress?), just so he can enjoy Veronica making a fool of herself by continuing to throw herself at a gay guy. And yeah, that’s pretty much it as far as plot goes.
Archie Comics are an unusual beast. I assume that a lot of their appeal lies in their nondescript, vaguely retro feel, so it’s a little odd that the universe is somewhat haphazardly updated to fit with the current times. There’s an odd disconnect when the characters do things like spend their time hanging out in a soda shop, but Jughead can insult Kevin by calling him a “noob.” Still, it’s nice that in addition to updating the lingo, current writer/artist Dan Parent is also bringing Riverdale into the 21st century by increasing its diversity. And I appreciate the fact that Kevin doesn’t stick out from the rest of the gang; he’s just another one of the guys. He just also happens to be gay.
I will say that it’s a testament to the writing, in a way, that this issue didn’t feel like it was trying to be a milestone, though in its own little way, it is. The storyline plays out just as I imagine any of the other wacky shenanigans the Riverdale kids get themselves up to, and I think that, in itself, is something its creators can be proud of.