I don’t often review comic books here. But, after reading the much heralded Archie #600, I wanted to give it a look.
When word first leaked that Archie Andrews was getting married to Veronica Lodge, my first thought was that the normally conservative company was going to do a cautionary tale about pre-marital sex. Yep, I figured this was a shotgun wedding because the high schools teens were finally going to start acting like today’s teens.
Then we learned this was to be a glimpse into a possible future. Having comic-fan-turned-producer Michael Uslan write the event is certainly newsworthy and for the first time in years, I bought myself an Archie comic.
Boy, was I disappointed. We open with the Archies performing their final gig at the high school and then, still on a high, Archie returns home and his parents tell him it’s finally time to select a college. Okay, odds are, the final performance comes before graduation which makes it mid-May to late-June depending on where you live. As we all know, college room deposits and acceptances tend to be due May 1 so by the time the band finally performs, this was a decision that should have been made.
Regardless, Archie suddenly can’t handle the pressure and goes for a late-night walk and goes “up” Memory Lane and finds a fork in the road and by taking the left fork enters a potential future where the rest of the six-parter takes place. We jump four years to find that virtually the entire high school gang has wound up at the same place: Statue University. That is a staggeringly unimaginative stagnation for the characters, especially Dilton Doily, whose genius would have led to scholarships and opportunities away from home. And here he is still worried about being seen as a nerd when these days the nerds have become the cool folk.
Archie is fretting over not thinking about what comes next for his friends. Well, clearly, Michael has forgotten what it’s like in college. All of senior year is spent fretting over this, prepping resumes, going on interviews, asking one another for advice. That he does not have a clue is staggeringly wrong. That he is graduating and says, “I’m gonna look for a job” without any sense he’s done this the last six to nine months is dumb. Archie likes history. That’s cool but he seems clueless as to his options and his father’s dismissive comments don’t help.
So to review: after four years of college, Moose is off to manage a chain restaurant while Midge is going into her own business but Reggie is going to be a Used Car Salesman? Betty, about to be a Buyer Trainee at Sacks Fifth Avenue, is the only one with a job that sounds right for a graduate. Dilton moving on to Grad school also works. Again, Michael essentially shows that after four years these characters have stagnated and nothing is different including the aimless Jughead. Instead, it would have been interesting to see Reggie turn into a sharp business school grad who has found a great sales position while Moose channels his energies into the military.
We then move on to Archie receiving a hefty check from his parents as a present and he uses it to buy Veronica an engagement ring, impulsively proposing at the jewelry store. We aren’t given any reason why he chose Veronica over Betty after all these years and with both women leaving town, he should have faced a harsher dilemma.
She accepts and in a dramatic twist, Jughead and Betty watch through the store window, silent witnesses.
The two then tell Mr. Lodge who surprisingly welcomes Archie with open arms. To me, his character was always about class and protocol so were I writing this, I would have had him furious that Archie, a grad without prospects or a plan, did not come to him to ask permission. Archie was always a pain to the Lodge family and seen as beneath Veronica as a romantic partner but here he is, hiring Archie into a position without respect to his training. Veronica, the very epitome of spoiled brat, loves the ring rather than characteristically deeming it the wrong size, cut or setting and having it redone.
Uslan nicely keeps things moving along as the news spreads with everyone fretting over how Betty was taking the news. We finally close with Veronica and Betty chatting and we see Betty has, er, flown the coop.
The “what if” concept is nothing new and making this a lengthy event is a nice touch but I wish it felt right. Instead, the characters don’t come across as young adults ready to conquer the world, stuck in the same amber they have been since the 1940s. The emotional pathos is also all surface and our hero comes across as desperate, swinging from panic to proposal.
I’m in this for all six issues and can hope things get better from here.