Review: 'Betty & Veronica' #1 Is a Refreshing, Genuine Portrait of Female Friendship
The last time Archie Comics' iconic ladies Betty and Veronica were featured in their own book, it [...]
The last time Archie Comics' iconic ladies Betty and Veronica were featured in their own book, it saw the pair at odds with one another, and while Betty & Veronica #1 sees the pair's friendship stronger than ever at the start of senior year don't expect a simple, lighthearted buddy story. Right off the bat, Jamie Lee Rotante is crafting a tale of friendship that is honest, layered, and complex in one of the most refreshing takes on female friendship in a long time.
Betty & Veronica #1 starts with an ending -- specifically of the summer between junior and senior year that readers soon learn included the titular characters renewing their friendship and forging a real bond in a season that started with a difficult breaking for Betty, who was secretly dating Reggie Mantle, and blossomed through a myriad of adventures. It's clear that these adventures weren't one-sided, either Betty experienced things Veronica enjoyed while Veronica in turn participated in things of Betty's choosing as well.
While this give and take may seem a little dull and even a bit slow, pacing-wise, it serves an important purpose as to establish the bond Betty and Veronica have with one another. That bond is something that is clearly going to be important over the course of the series, and not just in the obvious sense of the two girls anchoring themselves with one another. Early on, they make a pact to go to the same university in the fall, wherever that ends up being. A slightly immature and cliché pact for two teens to make? Absolutely, but it's also very real in how it reveals the depth of their friendship while also signaling just how naive both Betty and Veronica really are even as they stand on the edge of adulthood, its wild and there's terrifying uncertainty unfolding before them.
It's that vulnerability and honesty that is perhaps what makes Betty & Veronica #1 such a fresh, genuine read. Rotante has taken two characters that are, for better or worse, often caricatures whose stories are largely dependent on the whims and adventures of a certain red-haired "All-American" boy named Archie Andrews. While the classic conflict between Betty and Veronica over Archie's affections remains an element of the story, it's far from its centerpiece. Make no mistake: Archie is very much a supporting character here. Not the star. The girls' relationship is about them, not their rivalry and it feels like a not just a breath, but a full on gust of fresh air.
What also works incredibly well here is that readers are carefully introduced to the idea that despite their deep friendship and college pact, both Betty and Veronica have secrets that they are keeping, from their families and from one another. For Veronica, that means hiding the fact that she was rejected from the fancy, prestigious university her parents want her to go to. Meanwhile Betty is struggling with her own issues, issues that include her parents' financial problems as well as her own emotions over her breakup with Reggie and, perhaps, unresolved feelings for Archie. It's a nagging tension that Rotante manages to not only deliver on in the debut issue but keep just interesting enough that it sets up for a fitting cliffhanger as both Betty and Veronica realize they each hold information that could potentially be devastating for the other.
On story alone, Betty & Veronica would be an excellent first issue, but the quality goes well beyond the story. Sandra Lanz's line art partnered with Kelly Fitzpatrick's coloring creates a clean, comfortable visual appeal for the issue as well with the subtle nuances of both Betty and Veronica's inner turmoil deftly traced on their faces. It helps give the issue a realism that will stick with readers and make them think about their own experiences and friendships perhaps a little differently.
While it will be interesting to see where the series ultimately goes, Betty & Veronica #1 is an excellent start. The glimpse it offers into the friendship and inner lives of two of comics' most iconic female characters is a welcome and intriguing one that feels long overdue in a world that all too frequently revolves Archie.
Published by Archie Comics
On December 19, 2019
Written by Jamie Lee Rotante
Art by Sandra Lanz
Colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letters by Jack Morelli