Archie 4

archie 4

Today, Taylor and Ryan M. are discussing Archie 4, originally released November 25th, 2015.

Taylor: One of the hardest things about growing up is deciding who you want to be. While ultimately none of us can control what type of person we turn out to be (for really that’s in the eye of the beholder, no?), we try on many different guises as we grow into adulthood. Nowhere is the changing of who you are as easy, or as frequent, as high school. In high school you have the freedom to make your own decisions about what you’re going to do and what you’re going to wear that ultimately will make you into the person you wish to become. Keeping this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Archie would explore this topic given it setting and characters. But can this old comic perform new tricks when exploring this topic? Archie 4 dares to try and answer this question.

Archie is down in the dumps. He and Betty have broken up and that’s just no good. What precipitated this split is a GooBar. Or to be more precise, the events that followed the splitting of said GooBar. This inconspicuous candy bar sets off a series of episodes wherein Betty becomes less of a tomboy and more of a “girly-girl.” Archie is put off by this change in his life long lady friend and an argument ensues wherein lipstick becomes a weapon and Riverdale’s most well known couple splits. In the wake of this disaster, Archie turns towards the rich and beautiful Veronica for support.

Change indeed is at the heart of this issue. Or, since Archie himself never really changes, the change of Betty is at the center of this issue. When she goes to wash ants off of her arm after sharing a GooBar, Betty meets some girls who decide to make her their project. They essentially take her from being a tomboy to being a stereotypical teenage girl. Instead of liking things that normally are considered guy things, she’s suddenly interested in traditionally more feminine stuff. This makes Archie sad and pine for the glorious days of yore.

Changes

The montage above is set while he and Betty watch a movie that is a not too subtle analogy of their relationship. It’s changing! It would appear that what has bound Archie and Betty together all their years is their common bond over the things they love. That’s a pretty solid foundation for a relationship and when it’s taken away naturally things begin to crumble. While it might be kind of shocking to see Betty and Archie fall apart, it’s not all that surprising. We’ve all seen this same scenario play out before; maybe it’s even happened to us. But one person in a relationship begins to change in a way the other person is not. This is inevitably followed by the break up. It’s almost a right of passage of in life and it’s only logical that Mark Waid would explore that issue here.

What’s frustrating about this issue, however, is that it’s never clear to me whether Betty is the agent of her change or not. More importantly, it’s never made clear if she’s even happy with her changes. When she runs out on her date with Archie he confronts her and claims her lipstick isn’t the “Betty [he] knows.” Her response?

Change for good or bad

This is a powerful sequence here but the power of it is lost in the confusion of Betty’s actions. On the one hand, she seems to despise the lipstick, dress, and high heels she’s wearing. One the other, she claims she’s still the same person she has always been despite what her appearance may be. In doing so she calls out Archie for seemingly assuming she’s different internally just because she looks different externally. I feel like there is some logic to her actions but they’re just such a mystery to me at the moment. I would love to see this same issue from Betty’s point of view. She’s such an integral part of the issue it seems a shame that her thoughts and feelings don’t factor more into the narrative.

Ryan, what do you think? Are Betty’s actions confusing to you or am I just being obtuse? And in all of this, do you think Archie is guilt free or is he the master of his own demise, so to speak?

Ryan: Taylor, I have a couple of theories about Betty’s behavior. In reading this issue, I felt a bit like Archie, searching each moment for a clues as to what went wrong and why. I think the fact that he is telling the story does limit our insight into Betty’s mind, but there were a few moments that struck me.

First, we have the page where Betty walks home post-makeover. We don’t see her outfit, her hair, or even her full face. Instead we get two horizontal panels featuring her lacquered lips. In the first, she is unsmiling. She looks as put-out as she was at the mall. In the second, she has a bit of a smile on her face, a hint of pleasure. The interceding panels featuring male reactions to her. They start with shock (similar to Archie’s later behavior), then distraction and ultimately appreciation. Considering that she has been with her boyfriend since grade school and he calls her “pal” as an unironic term of endearment, this may be the first time that Betty has gotten this kind of attention. There is a thrill to be found in being seen in a new light. For Betty, the archetypal girl-next-door, having a moment of being seen as a hottie quite the novelty.

betty-smirk

The other moment in the issue that alluded to potential motives for Betty happens during her argument with Archie. She accuses him of “looking at girls dressed up like this.” Based on his reactions to Veronica, this is probably true. Betty and Archie are both rapidly moving away from their childhoods.  Part of that means embracing adult versions of themselves. It feels weird to type this word in regards to Archie, but there is a sexual element to all of this. Betty found herself enjoying being wanted. Archie is unconsciously drawn to other girls. The words Betty chose are also significant. She didn’t talk about a different “type of girl” or name anyone specifically. She talked about her more glamorous look as a way to be “dressed up.” Betty instinctual knows that style is just a performance. She hasn’t really changed, but Archie’s immediate rejection of her attempt to try something new reveals a deeper rift between them.

I go back to the beginning of Archie’s story. He recounts Betty requesting that they always stay this way and that he will stay the same. From Archie’s perspective, this is showing us that Betty’s makeover shows a baffling about-face. I wonder if he mistook her request to be unchanging. In that moment, they are cuddled in the grass, content and completely comfortable with each other. There is an intimacy from being totally accepted. Though he obviously interprets “stay the same” as a literal directive to remain unchanging in his life, she is asking for them to hold on to that connection. She knows that they can’t always be satisfied rolling in the mud and eating Gooey Bars, but maybe, if they’re lucky they could be satisfied with each other.

promises

I think, despite Betty’s unclear motivations, there are no bad guys in the “Lipstick Incident.” Except Sheila. Please, can Betty get a new best friend? Maybe one who can teach her about all trappings of femininity while Betty shows her how to be kind? And they hang out at Lodge manor? And her name is Veronica?

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

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4 comments on “Archie 4

  1. I find very few comics that are this well constructed and created that I have this little interest in. I think it’s because I’m a teacher, and most stories here are pretty similar to the exact same stories I live on a daily basis.

    I appreciate it for what it is, especially given the lack of quality in some of the comics we’ve talked about in the past few months (Dr. Fate, Howling Commandos, even Moon Girl had story telling issues). It’s just not about anything that I care about as part of my fictional multi-verse.

    Teen drama would always be a tough sell to me, but make it realistic teen drama where the main story is about a boy breaking up with a girl because they’re changing and maybe possibly growing apart? I’ve had that in my block 7 three times already this year.

  2. I don’t want to be the guy who becomes known for his hatred of Mark Waid. I really, really don’t. I’d rather be writing about the one of King’s three new comics. But currently, he is making it so hard…

    Look, Waid isn’t bad. My general opinion is that he makes really well crafted comfort food comics. Generally utterly vacant, but something good to read when you want to turn your brain off. He is very rarely bad. But quite simply, I prefer to think as I read/watch media, and even on those times I do actually want to turn my brain off, there are many fantastic things that work whether you think about them or not. So, I generally avoid him. He isn’t bad, just not for me. All-new All-Different Avengers was just an exception.

    I’ve been reading Archie largely for two reasons. Partly out of interest in the experiment (while Afterlife with Archie was a fantastically written book, there was always part of me that couldn’t separate it from normal Archie, which often made moments of horror turn into laughter, despite having one of my favorite artists doing the art). And partly because of Fiona Staples. Fiona Staples is one of those people I will happily read comics of, regardless of writer, because her art is so great. Sadly, without Staples, I don’t think I care to continue. Annie Wu is certainly not a bad artist, in fact she is a good artist, and I will be happy to see her in any project that interests me. I loved her in Hawkeye and Black Canary. She just isn’t good enough to sell the comic by herself.

    Waid, meanwhile, has just been doing what Waid does. Not good, but not bad. Until this week…

    Unsurprisingly, everyone is confused about the Lipstick Incident, and it makes sense. It doesn’t feel like a break up. Quite simply, Waid, in trying to make it no one’s fault, has created a situation where both parties want the same thing. Betty is obviously not comfortable, considering she was basically forced into that dress, then went back dressing like she always does until Issue 2, where she is once again pressured by Shelia into a dress, and feels uncomfortable. Now, teenagers are silly things, and a misunderstanding like this could cause a massive fight that does act as a ‘break up’. But I can’t see it being the sort of break up that doesn’t get immediately resolved when they start talking again, nor can I see it being the type of break up that would have Archie fall for another girl immediately. They should be moping around until one of the finally gets the nerve to say either ‘I’m sorry, you were right, that wasn’t me’ or ‘I’m sorry, you were right, I was being a dick’, where upon the other party says the other thing and everything is fine. So yeah, the big dramatic reveal that 3 comics have built up flubs because Waid is being so careful to avoid making anyone at fault (We did briefly mention the other day the problem with focusing too much on likability) that we have a fight with no disagreement, which at the very least is a confusing and unsatisfying way to have Archie and Betty break up.

    But this isn’t the problem. If that was the problem, this would just be a discussion of the weaknesses, with a note that I will be dropping it now that Staples is gone, and not the angry screed it is going to become. Because the real problem is SHelia.

    What the fuck, Waid?

    Shelia’s previous position was as Betty’s friend. Not the best friend, in that Shelia obviously didn’t get Betty and therefore would constantly get her to do things she didn’t want to do. But Shelia’s heart was in the right place. So she may not be a good friend, but a true friend.

    Except she isn’t. Because she only befriended Betty a week before the first issue, and only because she wants to ingratiate herself with a popular guy. Which is to say that Betty has no actual friends outside her boyfriend (who she is now no longer talking to). Which, combined with everything else in the comic, is presenting this sort of picture that Betty is basically friendless because she chooses to care more about motor oil and grease and ‘boy’ things than make up and dresses and ‘girly’ things.

    It is a staggeringly fucking stupid move. Even if we ignore that implication (which is perfectly fair, as it requires a bit of thought to link htat), even the idea of Shelia only befriending Betty to ingratiate herself with Archie is fucking horrible. Basically, everyone close to Betty are care about her only because they want to fuck her or they want to make Archie happy. That’s Archie at the moment

    What the hell is wrong with Waid at the moment? He’s never been this incompetent

  3. that Archie is one of the best comedy/drama comicbooks right now has to be one of the most bizarre developments ever in this market. It hurts not having Fiona now,but as of now the art works for me,and really, i enjoy this unironically tender,almost Linklater-esque vision of modern teenagers,no pandering,no “grim and gritty”,just a bunch a young people growing up and enjoying life.

    It´s beginning to show signs that it could use more long term ambition,but if it´s this consistent,a pseudoanthology works for me too

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