Stumbling at the Finish Line in Archie 25

by Ryan Mogge

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

While I loved Sweet Valley High books as a tween, I never put them down satisfied. The reason being that, no matter how juicy the main plot of the book was, how conniving twin Jessica got her comeuppance or “good” twin found herself back in the arms of her longtime boyfriend Todd, the last two pages would introduce a plot that was totally unrelated to provide a transition to the next book. The ending of the A and B plots of Archie 25 aren’t quite that egregious, but Mark Waid and Audrey ask the reader to switch gears from much more compelling stories.

The issue ends with Veronica overhearing a conversation between Betty and Archie that confirms the darkest of her niggling fears about Archie’s preoccupation with his friend. This is one of those conflicts that could be solved with a two minute conversation. Heck, it might even take one minute. We don’t know how this will play out, and even if Veronica does immediately have that conversation, it still creates soap opera drama during a storyline that has otherwise been grounded in the wake of the car accident.

Reggie’s jail scene has the same kind of swerve. Reggie is facing consequences for his actions for what may be the first time in his life. He has potentially left a classmate paralyzed. His father has turned his back on him in favor of selling more newspapers. Then the cops literally threaten him. Wow. It feels like this is the time for us to wallow in the dark hour of Reggie’s soul.  Instead, Waid chooses to introduce Jason and Cheryl’s father, paying off a forgotten storyline. The Blossom twins are barely players in the current configuration of Archie, and seeing Reggie back in scheming mode was especially disheartening .

By focusing on the end of the issue, I am being remiss. The central plot of this issue was great. Mok and Waid sketch out Jughead and Betty’s relationship in a way that is both touching and true to both characters while avoiding getting too saccharine. Some of the series discussion of Betty’s behavior has made her seem like a saint who never stops giving to everyone, but by focusing on this one act of kindness, Waid illustrates why Jughead is ready to face angry parents in order to give his buddy what she needs.

Mok’s flashbacks in the issue have the scratches of old film reel and the wordless page above benefits from that kind of retro style. It’s a memory that has grown softer with time  but Mok doesn’t miss a chance to show how vulnerable Jughead is or how big a move it is for him to offer Betty a stool. If the issue had ended on Jughead returning the favor by sitting with Mrs. Cooper eating their sadness, it would have been great. I really should have learned from SVH and stopped reading before the last two pages.

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