“A Calculated Risk”
When Archie and Reggie are pressured by their parents to improve their calculus grades, Reggie comes up with a sure-fire way to score a higher grade on the next test – cheat! With the help of a hacker, Reg has all the questions and answers – except for one: will Archie cheat with him?
“A Calculated Risk” is a serious take on the problems of peer pressure and cheating works fairly well. Angelo Decesare’s script doesn’t totally eschew the laughs, but it does give the readers an Archie and Reggie who have a bit more dimension than usual. With the story taking up the issue’s full twenty-two pages, Decesare can actually explore the reasons why Archie would be tempted to cheat. Granted they’re shallow ones – he needs his car privileges back because Veronica is catching rides with a senior; but teens can be shallow.
In Reggie’s case his grades need to improve so he can get in to Strathmore University, his parents’ alma mater. It’s pretty obvious from the context that Reggie doesn’t care about Strathmore, but he does care about getting his parents off his case. More than one reader will be able to relate to him on that count alone.
Decesare does a nice job of not making the parents the villains here. It would have been easy to make Reggie’s parents pushy, overbearing stage parents. But he didn’t. They come across as parents who honestly want their son to succeed. Same thing with Archie’s folks. They feel that the only way then can get Archie to study more is to take away his wheels. It’s a solution parents have been employing since cars were invented and it works just about as well here.
While some might argue that Decesare cheats by not having Dilton involved in the story, the dialog makes it clear that tutoring has not worked for Archie in the past. Decesare hints that there’s also an element of pride involved. No one wants to admit they’re having trouble with a subject; Reggie especially.
The final third of the story loses some of its believability – a nighttime car chase for the answers?! And it wraps up a bit too neatly. I’m not sure any teacher would react to Reggie’s confession the way his apparently does, but I give credit to Decesare for dealing with the issue at all.
On the art front Goldberg, Smith, and Grossman provide some nice establishing shots. You get a definite feel for the different socio-economic backgrounds Archie and Reggie come from just from the relative sizes of the houses they inhabit. It’s very skillfully done.
For the most part, the characters convey the emotions they need to for each scene, though in some panels, it almost seems like the characters have been laid over the background, rather than drawn on it. The total integration isn’t there.
Those wanting eye candy can ogle the very nice shot of Veronica lounging against a ball rack. Reggie, on the other hand, has one panel where his face looks like it's been flattened by a truck.
In the long run, Archie #582 probably isn’t going to deter someone determined to cheat but the issue does make a good starting place for a discussion between parents and children about honesty, peer and parent pressure, and responsibilities.
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