If you haven’t picked up a copy (or two) of Kevin Keller #1 from Archie Comics yet, you really owe it to yourself to get it. You owe it to the 10- or 12-year-old you. The kid searching for some acknowledgement of his identity or some positive or accepting media representation. And that’s the mindset you should have when you read this book. Imagine what a difference it will make to kids out there who are desperate for any glimmer of hope. We get to see Kevin through the eyes of his friends, both old and new, as well as his parents, and one thing is clear: Kevin is loved. He’s also brave and loyal and fun-loving, a great friend to have around.
His coming out story is handled briefly, but matter-of-factly, and because this is Archie Comics after all, his parents express their concerns, but still love and accept him, no matter what. This book is revolutionary in the best possible way, acknowledging that while some people may be different, they’re still normal.
The issue starts off with the Archie gang getting ready for a July 4th parade and pie-eating contest. Kevin’s military father is the guest of honor in the parade, and Kevin states up front how proud he is of his father. The tranquility of this all-American scene is quickly interrupted, though, by the arrival of some trash-talking teens from Bricktown. Any fears of a gay-bashing in Riverdale are quickly dispelled, thankfully, when Kevin reveals the kids are old friends of his. It’s through these childhood friends that we get to learn a little more about Kevin. We get to see him come to the rescue of his friend Wendy, who is the victim of a prank by some bullies. And we also get to see him stick with his friends, even as he becomes more popular in school.
Finally, as the day of the parade arrives, we meet Kevin’s parents and learn about his coming out story and his hopes of joining the military after graduation. Since these kids never graduate, we won’t have to worry about that for a while, unless Dan Parent does a future miniseries featuring Kevin’s globe-trotting adventures.
Despite the influx of “real” issues in Archie Comics lately, the characters and setting feel largely unchanged from when I was reading them as a kid. The teens have cell phones now and are aware of things like DADT, but it still feels like Archie and the Riverdale I know and love. While it’s easy to dismiss this universe as corny, I think it’s just as valid in terms of escapism as any other comics universe. Plus, now that Kevin is in town, Riverdale just became a significantly better place for readers to escape to, no matter what their sexuality may be.
Kevin Keller #1 is available for $2.99 at your local comics shop or online via subscription at archiedigital.com.