- Posted by Johanna on October 10, 2010 at 5:44 pm
- Category: Archie Comics
- CREDITS: script by Dan Parent; pencils by Pat & Tim Kennedy; inks by Mike DeCarlo
- PUBLISHER: Archie Comics; $2.99 US
Archie Comics has begun running multi-part storylines across titles as a way to increase interest and create collection-friendly material. Their latest is called “Battle of the BFFs”, focusing on “best friends forever” Betty and Veronica. Not only does it explore one of the strongest relationships of the Archie characters, it also ties into the current fad for reality competition TV shows. All four parts were done by the same creative team, Dan Parent, Pat & Tim Kennedy, and Mike DeCarlo.
Part one started in Betty #187, where the two girls competed for the title “World’s #1 BFFs” as part of a TV contest to create friendship ambassadors. Although there’s a talent competition, there’s more to this storyline than yet another tournament. Various characters are shown wondering who their BFF is. In this world, not everyone has a friend that good. In fact, it’s Cheryl’s drive to find her own best friend that underlies the movement from issue to issue.
The art drew itself to my attention, which isn’t always a good thing. The Kennedys are creating dynamic action, but it sometimes seems overdone. Veronica, for example, appears deliriously happy that Betty’s her BFF, much out of scale with the story text. Still, it’s a good thing to keep the reader’s eye involved and make the story about more than just reading the dialogue balloons.
I also found it interesting that Veronica and Betty fall for Cheryl’s trick so quickly. It contradicts the message that they’re such good friends, that each will so easily believe the other lied and went back on their promise. Of course, the misunderstanding is as quickly resolved as it arose. (If you’re reading Life With Archie, though, you may find their declaration, “We don’t know who will end up with [Archie], but whoever does, it won’t matter… because we’ll be best friends until the day we die!” somewhat unbelievable, given that future-set series shows the opposite.)
That issue isn’t the reason I’m bothering to talk about this story, anyway. I came to appreciate the subtext more with the second issue, Betty and Veronica #249. The girls are appearing on talk shows to “promote the importance of having … a true friend you can count on through thick and thin” and encouraging others to show them “what girl power and friendship are all about!”
Watching them, Cheryl comes to realize that all of her pals are fairweather friends, so she sets out to get to know Ginger better, since they both like fashion. Meanwhile, other girls all over Riverdale are appreciating each other. And that’s the part of this comic I liked the best: we got to check in with supporting characters who are too rarely seen. We see Nancy and Midge relatively frequently, but here we also see Marcy, Veronica’s geeky cousin; Brigitte, the larger girl, and new kid Kumi; plus Crickett O’Dell, Maria Rodriguez, and a teen Evelyn Evernever. It was refreshing seeing all these different girls in a context other than worrying about boys. I wish we got more stories that expanded the female supporting cast. There are some neat characters there that we don’t see enough.
Plus, Ginger tells off Betty and Veronica for their insulting selfishness. The two need to learn that just because they don’t get along with Cheryl, that doesn’t mean that their other friends have to shun her, too. The idea that not all of your friends will like each other is an important one. The point isn’t made explicit, but it’s there. At least, until it does all turn into a Cheryl plot. She’s too useful to the series as a villain to redeem her or do more nuanced stories, unfortunately.
That brings us to part three, in Betty #188. For some reason, a strong opening with lots of character interaction turns into a pogo stick race. What that has to do with being best friends is unclear, although it gave the artists lots of exaggerated motion to draw. There’s also a charity activity, raising money, which Cheryl wins by putting on a bikini, complete with a pinup pose panel to show it off. It’s unfortunate that such a female-friendly story, with a greater diversity of character types of personalities, had to be marred by such a stupid, male-focused idea. I would have rather seen a team with creativity and hard work win. Maybe that’s what happens when you have only guys working on your girls’ comic.
That issue also features a trivia quiz with questions that range from the silly to the historically obscure, such as “Lottie Little debuted in the 1950s and was redesigned into another popular Archie character. Who is it?” Answer: Midge.
The final chapter will appear in Veronica #203, due out November 3. In it, they send all the contestants off to survive on a deserted island. Obviously, they’ve decided the reality show elements are more important than the rest of the story. Shame. This could have been a really great read. Now, it’s just a weird little time capsule with some well-done moments.