Back in August, I was very harsh on the first installment in Michael Uslan’s six-part “what if” story, which devoted three issues of Archie to watching Archie Andrews marry Veronica Lodge then three issues watching Archie marry Betty Cooper.
At the time, I was frustrated at the characters acting, well, out of character and the lazy thinking that went into this. Now that the final installment is out, I wanted to go back and see if things improved.
The three-parter with Veronica never really explores anything as we rush headlong from event to event. The wedding prep and wedding are crammed into one issue so the real humor ripe with the bachelor and bachelorette parties is gone. We also see that Hiram Lodge has decided not to stick Archie in a dead-end job after all, but makes him a vital cog in the machine. For someone with a history degree and zero business experience, his thriving makes little sense. Of course, Uslan takes the chicken way out and provides them with twins, oddly naming both after themselves. While Veronica might be that self-absorbed Archie certainly isn’t.
The Betty three-parter is more engaging but equally devoid of exploring what it really means to be an adult and starting not only a career but a married life. First of all, Archie’s parents’ reaction to his choice of Betty rings true as does Archie’s difficulties finding work. After all, he has a history degree and what do you do with that, especially in a tiny town like Riverdale? The struggles of work and a married life also feel better but Betty refusing to stay in the city and pursue her career while Archie continued to look for work made no sense. Nor does them living with his parents – if they were that poor, then why on Earth give up her salary? Also, Archie could not possibly be given a teaching position given his lack of training and credentials. Maybe a long-term sub and maybe he considers teaching but needs to go back for his master’s. Also, music was always an aspect of Archie’s life — he didn’t even study it in college, so what on earth qualifies him to teach it? Nope, not touched on. Then there’s the pregnancy, avoiding a chance for them to discuss “planned” parenthood since this seems to be a total surprise. The best part is showing how the newlyweds are beginning to form a social life beyond their high school friends, a natural evolution.
Life at college is a time for finding one’s self, for taking those first steps towards independence and forging new bonds. That first job is a stepping stone to a career and you begin building new friendships and connections, while your contact with high school friends begins to dwindle. For the sake of the status quo, that was largely in both three-parters and therefore robs the entire event of a poignancy it should have had along with some wonderful humor.
Michael insists on parallels between the two including the headlong rush into marriage upon college graduation. Here he had a chance to impart some lessons to his readers, showing what rushing could do in one instance, and planning for the future in another. People aren’t marrying at 22 but later and this should have been acknowledged.
Overall, the idea of showing what life would be like for each woman is great but far too much of the humor was slapstick and not character-based. Too many winks and nods and trying to fit in everyone (the worst being Moose controlling his mood through yoga) with illogical career choices assigned to the characters. The best of those was the wink to the readers with Dilton’s discovery of parallel universes and promptly disappearing. Yeah, after this six month disappointment, I’d want to vanish, too.
Michael is an old pal and his enthusiasm and affection for the characters was clearly evident at San Diego over the summer. I really wish that all translated to the page instead of something that clearly needed rethinking and reworking for a better tale.