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Betty & Veronica #181

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2008
By: Penny Kenny

Dan Parent
Dan Parent, Jon D’agostino
Archie Comics
“Love is Nasty” (part 2)

Gasp! Can it be true? Are Cheryl Blossom and Reggie Mantle really an item? It looks like it in this continuation of the “Love is Nasty” storyline that began in Betty & Veronica Digest #180. While Veronica is at first ecstatic over this turn of events, her joy soon turns to jealousy as Cheryl’s popularity threatens to eclipse her own. Meanwhile Betty is concerned it’s all a ploy on Cheryl’s part and that Reggie is going to end up hurt. And Archie, well he’s sighing over the one that got away. It will all come to a head when the Valentine Queen and King are announced and readers get to see just who’s holding whose heart.

Sigh. If only Dan Parent had been given the Bad Boy Trouble format to work with here. Twenty-two pages per chapter would have really allowed him to dig into the depths of the story. As it is, he just scratches the surface of possibilities.

The story is strictly from Veronica’s point of view. Readers get only what she sees and hears. This is a double-edged sword. While it builds the suspense – what are Cheryl and Reggie thinking? – it also leaves readers wondering what are Cheryl and Reggie thinking? Is it really love? Is it just a scam? And what about Archie? Why the sudden sighing over Cheryl? Is it a case of genuinely missing her? Or is it that he just he can’t stand Reggie having her? In one of the panels, Dilton watches with an odd expression on his face. Having once dated Cheryl himself, how does he feel about this? Veronica doesn’t know the answers, so neither do readers. It’s frustrating.

On the other hand, it’s a riot watching Veronica fall apart as Cheryl gets it together. “Cheryl Blossom?!” she shrieks when Cheryl is nominated for Valentine Queen. “The end of the world is near!” Her reaction to Archie’s sigh is also a pitch-perfect overreaction: “Did you sigh? Did I hear a sigh? That better not have been a sigh!”

After the beautiful second cover featuring Cheryl and Reggie sharing a milkshake while the rest of the gang stands in the background, it’s rather disappointing to see Parent revert back to the standard grid format and usual house style. It has a distancing effect on the story, keeping readers at an arm’s length rather than inviting them to get really involved. The art’s perfectly adequate, but there’s not a great deal of variety in the shots. Out of thirty-three panels, there are only three you could really call close-ups. The rest are pretty much mid-distance shots. Parent often does fantastic things with page lay-out, so I’m curious as to why he didn’t here. This is a chapter that would have really benefited from the use of shojo manga tropes, which he’s perfectly capable of integrating into his own style. The story ends up being disappointing not because of what it is, but because of what it could have been.

Closing out the issue is “It’s All an Act,” a new story by Pellowski, Bolling, and Amash. This one’s memorable mainly for its look, which is almost a stream-lined version of the '50s and '60s house style. Bolling, with Amash’s inks, give the characters a very swing-y look. Even when they’re standing straight, their weight is shifting in one direction or the other. When they’re moving, their center of gravity shifts so far, they almost tip. It’s an attractive, if slightly unusual take on the characters. The plot is a cute piece of fluff that has Archie unwittingly inspiring Ronnie to new heights as an actress.

Filling in between the two new stories are eleven quality reprints, three fashions by readers pages (with Michigan well represented), and an advice column.

The two-part “Bedside Manner” is notable for Ronnie’s attempts to fill in for Betty at the nursing home. Suffice it to say, Veronica’s ideas for entertaining the elderly are different than most. The scene with the residents trying to escape her ministrations is truly chuckle worthy. It actually turns into a rather sweet tale as Veronica bonds with one of the patients, but there’s also a twist that keeps it from becoming too sappy.

The Friends parody “Too Many Friends?” works even if you’re not a fan of the show, or haven’t seen it at all. It also has the best looking Moose I’ve ever seen.

“Relatively Speaking” features the pre-teen Sabrina from the cartoon series. Stuck dealing with a trouble-making cousin who’s really “bugging” her, she comes up with the perfect magical solution. I’ll admit I give this one extra points for its reference to the Detroit Lions. They might not be a winning team, but at least warlocks and ensorcelled cats like them.

While “Love is Nasty” could have been more, it’s an entertaining story that heads up a solid collection.



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