By Zachary Krishef
When I first heard about Betty And Veronica: Vixens, I was intrigued. The notion of Riverdale’s female characters starting a biker gang seemed like a fresh way to reinvent the standard Archie mythos. I like seeing what happens when you take classic characters and put them in unfamiliar or newfound territory. Unfortunately, the first few issues didn’t necessarily live up to my expectations. I found that the pacing felt off, with too much time from the present to the mysterious flash-forwards. In short, the story was decent, but I felt that something was lacking.
Thankfully, the end of the first arc has all but assuaged my fears. Almost all of the rockiness has disappeared. There is no more need for a prelude, the main action has begun, showing Riverdale’s Vixens as an awesome gang of mighty crusaders, if you’ll pardon the reference. After sending the Southside Serpents scurrying away, the crew spends their time stopping abusers and ending harassment.
It could easily be portrayed as a simple ‘villain of the week’ format, but that’s not the case. The interpersonal issues between the individual members add tension to the mission statement, especially when Cheryl joins in. Near the beginning of the issue, the entire group goes on a trip to see a roller derby event. One large panel simply depicts everyone’s personalities without an overabundance of dialogue. Of course, some exposition is needed, but it doesn’t overshadow the art. Ever since MTV cancelled Sweet/Vicious, I’ve been looking for a book or show with a similar conceit, and it seems like Vixens is close to fulfilling that role.
Some of the violence surprised me. I’m no longer surprised when I see an Archie Comics, Inc. comic have an adult moment, but one moment near the end of the issue made me wince. While not exactly gory, Eva Cabrera and Elaina Unger’s combined talents created an exceptional visceral atmosphere. Granted, the victim most definitely deserved it, but the sound effect and horrified reactions make the horror abundantly clear. Just that scene made me as uncomfortable as the violence in the first volume of Afterlife With Archie.
Finally, the characters are still enjoyable. Cheryl’s clashes with Veronica are consistently entertaining and snarky. While the issue isn’t filled with jokes, when the opportunity for some humor arises, I can almost guarantee that the joke will be good. Betty has a one-liner that I hold up as one of the single best jokes in all of the “New Riverdale” lineup. It’s even funnier if you remember the Spire-produced Christian comics in the seventies. Jamie Lee Rotante, I salute you for that amazing gag.
If I had to complain, it still seems as though the narrative has some loose threads–namely, one flash-forward seemingly revealing that the Vixens are now fugitives from the law. I’m hoping that this issue’s cliffhanger sowed the seeds for that plot point. Still, if this issue is any indication, then the next arc will be amazing.
Betty And Veronica: Vixens #5 is currently available from Archie Comics, written by Jamie Lee Rotante, colored by Elaina Unger with art by Eva Cabrera, lettered by Rachel Deering, and edited by Alex Segura and Vincent Lovallo.