Story & Art: Various
Publisher: Archie Comics
Ah, daydreams. Everyone has them. They’re the stuff of Friday afternoons in English class. And the Archie cast certainly isn’t immune to their pull. In the pleasant little “Always on Our Mind” author and artist Dan Parent gives readers a pictorial peek into the characters’ dreams. Most are exactly what you’d expect them to be if you’re familiar with Betty, Veronica, and the gang at all... although Mr. Wetherbee’s is slightly unexpected. The clever thing about the story is that it also serves as a wonderful introduction to the characters. Anyone unfamiliar with the Archieverse could flip through this story and know immediately what’s important to these people. In fact, it just happened. Two girls who don’t read Archie comics just looked at “Always on Our Mind” as I was typing. They immediately pegged Cheryl as “evil,” Ginger as “sweet,” and Dilton as “smart.” Not all of the characters get name-checked, but who they are is obvious.
“Always on Our Mind” also sets up something of a theme for the issue. Of the twelve reprints, five of them deal with daydreams or fantasies of some sort. Six, if you count the story in which Veronica goes through the day with nothing smaller than a $100 bill on her and no one accepts credit cards.
Those who dislike the more realistic art of the “Bad Boy Trouble” storyline over in the double digest are on safe ground here. The style is “House traditional” throughout. There’s also very little deviation in style between the opening story and the reprints. They’re all of recent vintage, so the reader is never jarred by the sudden appearance of a 50s Veronica.
Speaking of the reprints, three in particular stand-out: “The Big Breakup: Part II,” “The Problem,” and “He-Mail.” Anyone who missed their first appearances will enjoy their inclusion here.
In “The Big Breakup,” which is continued from the previous digest, Betty has called it quits with Archie, even going so far as to shred his pictures. She’s ready to move on with Adam, “a boy who has helped me regain my self-respect.”
What’s interesting in the story are Archie and Veronica’s reactions. Archie tries to square things with Betty, not because he’s realized she’s the “One” for him, but because of what other people think. That’s pure high school right there. And in a nice bit of Veronica characterization, the spoiled rich girl decides if Betty doesn’t want Archie, she doesn’t either. The status quo is restored, but there’s the suggestion that at heart Betty and Archie are just meant to be really good friends.
“The Problem” also plays with that same theme. In it, Betty explains how she came to know Adam. Her re-telling of their meeting is a beautiful example of showing how a friendship can develop into something more. It ends on a laugh of sorts, and yet it’s a bit deeper than a one joke story.
Cheryl Blossom is the star of “He-Mail,” and I might as well admit right now that I like Cheryl better than either Betty or Veronica. While I don’t want to see her with Archie, I wouldn’t mind seeing an extended storyline that develops a Cheryl and Reggie romance. That being said, “He-Mail” chronicles the beginning of Cheryl’s romance with a different supporting character. My Reggie bias aside, it’s a good story. Cheryl gets to show unexpected depth, as does her mystery man.
While it’s not an outstanding story, “Are You Like a Millionaire?” is a cute quiz set-up for readers to see which of our heroines they’re most like. It’s interesting how the quiz begins with generic type questions and drawings and then moves into specific instances illustrated by the girls. This can skew the scoring, but it’s still fun. Sadly, my own score makes me a Betty, but I did enjoy how the differences between Veronica and Cheryl were pointed up. Too often they get lumped together just because they’re both wealthy.
Good stories. Romance and misunderstandings. Humor and quizzes. What more could you want? Overall, Betty & Veronica Digest #175 is an enjoyable “beginning of summer” reading package.
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