by Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Crossover comics almost always have a problem of feeling overstuffed. There are two complete casts of characters and two different worlds, all of which need to be honored in one way or another. Harley and Ivy meet Betty and Veronica 1 packs in a ton of individual character personalities, but ultimately fails to juggle them all at once. By the time we get to the climactic costume party, we’re tracking Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Kevin, Sabrina, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, to say nothing of Hiram and Smithers, who we can assume are all on-site somewhere. Artist Laura Braga does some incredible design work in this issue (so many costumes!), but continuity of space totally falls apart with so many players in a scene. This issue is at its best at its simplest, but it so seldom sticks to simplicity.
Actually, we can see this demonstrated on the very first page. The opening of this issue is a Hiram Lodge commercial for his forthcoming Lodge University. The University seems like it’s probably more of an excuse for some bougie amenities, like movie theatres and outdoor shopping, but hey, an opportunistic billionaire has to make a buck somehow, right? Lodge’s commercial has the kind of flowery narration you’d expect from a for-profit school capitalizing on young people’s ambitions, but it’s undercut with images of the youth of Riverdale displaying the exact opposite qualities. It’s a cute page, and shows some good insight into these characters. But even on the first page, that simplicity is muddied as Braga and writers Paul Dini and Marc Andreyko lose the tight, singular focus of the first three panels.
Those single-panel stories up-top are phenomenal. “Industrious”, “connected”, “in tune with the times” — single words or phrases matched up with an image that perfectly communicates the joke. Compare that to the next three panels, which show Sabrina either making a potion or just doing chemistry. The narration drifts away from what we’re seeing on the page. What does panel five have to do with “boundless enthusiasm”? Shouldn’t that be Moose asleep in algebra class? And as long as I’m being nitpicky, shouldn’t Sabrina be more clearly demonstrating that she is beholden to the “archaic ways of yesteryear” in that fourth panel? Even such mild ambition as a three-panel story throws the jokes off.
That’s sort of how the rest of the issue plays: the simple scenes work great and make sense, while anything more complicated looks like a mess. Harley and Ivy scheming in their greenhouse? Great! Half-page plan to lure an attacker into the open with plant doppelgänger only to blow them up so they’re free to skip town? Not as great.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?