First off, I have to say the cover to this issue should really be a poster. Created by Fernando Ruiz, Rich Koslowski, and Tito Peña, it captures the fun and innocent sexiness of the females of the Archieverse. It's also a clever way to introduce the opening story by Tom DeFalco.
"Camp Out Clout" opens with the boys going camping. When Betty and Veronica express an interest, they're told in no uncertain terms that they're too delicate to handle the "rugged outdoors." With that, the Battle of the Sexes is on — Veronica Lodge style.
Throw in a revenge minded Cheryl Blossom and Ginger Lopez and you have a recipe for comic mayhem. DeFalco gets these characters. With a few lines of dialog he clearly defines who they are: Betty is practical, Jughead is hungry, Cheryl is devious, Ginger is a hesitant henchwoman and Veronica is smug and superior. The story moves at a brisk pace and offers both slapstick comedy and a neat reversal of fortune.
Another writer who gets these characters is George Gladir. In "Thinking Positive" he quickly establishes that Betty is in a lower economic class than Veronica and that Archie enjoys the advantages the heiress can offer him. But through Betty's older sister Polly, Gladir offers the timeless lesson that optimism and watching for opportunities can lead to unexpected rewards. It's all done in a very light way, but it makes the point nonetheless.
The issue's final story, "Festival Time," is both entertaining and educational as Betty and the Green Girls teach Veronica and her friend Karyl a lesson about piracy. In five pages, Gladir gives readers information about famous women pirates —
— establishes that Betty is the kind of young woman who gives up her time for a worthy cause and shows that Veronica can miss what's right in front of her. It's a fun story that mixes history, fashion and humor.
Artists Jeff Shultz, Jim Amash, and Jack Morelli give the book a fun, fresh look. In "Camp Out" there's a wonderful shot of a wet, gleeful Cheryl and a miserable Ginger that's beautiful, while in another panel Betty, Veronica, and company deal with a plague of frogs. Though I'm not sure what Nancy's doing, the scene has a sense of crazed energy.
Expressions are also well done.
Polly's "Stop feeling sorry for yourself" speech in "Thinking Positive" is accompanied by the appropriate stern cast of features. A panel later it has softened as she explains what she means. The changing tilt of Betty's head between the panels shows she's actively listening. It's not a showy sequence, but it's solid storytelling.
Betty and Veronica #256 offers readers a variety of intelligent, humorous stories with good looking art. It works as an introductory issue for readers new to the Archieverse, as a reminder to former readers of what makes Archie Comics fun, and as an enjoyable issue for current readers.
For the past 13 years, Penny Kenny has been an elementary library paraprofessional in a rural school district. For the seven years prior to that, she headed a reading-math program designed to help first grade students with learning difficulties. Her book reviews regularly appeared in Starlog from 1993 to the magazine's unfortunate demise in 2009 and she has published several e-novellas under a pen name. She has been a reviewer with Comics Bulletin since 2007.