Earned Ultimatums in Archie 26

by Ryan Mogge

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

Ultimatums are a hallmark of melodrama. They immediately raise the stakes, making the next move carry the weight of future. Usually this is an unfair burden. Since the time that I realized that the relationships on Beverly Hills 90210 weren’t healthy, ultimatums in romance get a healthy dose of side-eye from me. When a person says “do this or we’re done” it’s usually a cop-out or a cheap way to turn a pot-hole into a roadblock. Ultimatums are the cliffhanger of choice in romance, perching a relationship’s entire future on the next moment. Given my skepticism, it’s impressive how much empathy Mark Waid and Audrey Mok are able to elicit from me for Dilton and Veronica at the end of Archie #26.

Waid and Mok are able to create such a sympathetic moment for Dilton because they provide the context of his scene with Toni. On its own, a guy pestering a girl who asked for space post-accident to choose between “Buddy or Boyfriend” sounds pushy. However, we have the context to know that this isn’t really about putting Betty on the spot. Dilton is setting a boundary for himself. He doesn’t want to be a creeper, thinking in terms of the “friend zone” and waiting for Betty to wake up and find that what she’s been looking for has – oops, fell into a Taylor Swift song. Point is, Waid lays out an argument for speaking up that frames Dilton’s pressing of the issue as honest and straight-forward.

On the other hand, Veronica is about as far away from honest and straight-forward as can be. She doesn’t address what she overheard and even goes on a date with Jason freakin’ Blossom. By the time she and Archie are talking on that bench, she can reveal the truth of her behavior. She is scared and Archie’s admission only makes it worse.

Waid and Mok build the two storylines to a fever pitch simultaneously. On one side, we have Dilton gathering his courage, building to what could be a victorious moment. On the other, Veronica breaking down, getting so low that she is desperate to have Archie put her out of her misery, one way or another.

Significant credit has to go to Mok who ends the issue with these plaintive faces and for getting the story to place where I need to know the answers almost as badly as the teens of Riverdale.

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