Betty and Veronica: Vixens #1 is part feminist critique of the patriarchy values of traditional (and some) Archie comics and part an excuse for artist Eva Cabrera (Kim and Kim) to draw badass girls on motorcycles beginning with breathtaking double page spread featuring plenty of black leather from colorist Elaina Unger. Writer Jamie Lee Rotante begins her tale in media res with a face-off between Betty and Veronica’s girl gang and the Southside Serpents before plunging into the origin story of how the rich girl and girl next door ended up becoming badass biker chicks.
By starting with bikes and attitude, Rotante, Unger, and Cabrera give readers a hook into the world of Betty and Veronica: Vixens before going back to the more traditional, pastel-y colors of the Archie universe where Betty keeps getting stood up by Archie, and Veronica escapes her privileged lifestyle by riding motorcycles with Reggie. However, the boys don’t really matter compared to Betty and Veronica, who drive the story unlike the previous book co-starring them, which had some nice pinup art, but mad the unfortunate choice of having Hot Dog as the narrator. Betty and Veronica: Vixens truly has a sleek modern style of storytelling with spare dialogue during action sequences and clean choreography with Rotante saving her words for enjoyable tete-a-tete’s between Betty and Veronica trying to find their identity in the white patriarchy of Riverdale and eventually deciding to take matters into their own hands.
Rotante plays with and challenges the traditional stereotypes of these two characters, and by extension, women in the Western world, and I can’t wait to see her take on the other women of Riverdale. (And Greendale: fingers crossed for a Sabrina appearance.) The traditional Archie narrative has been Betty and Veronica vying for the ginger goofball, but he’s dead weight in this comic and a wannabe poser, who can barely start his hog. (So many double entendres to unpack there, and in this comic in general.) They are the ones taking the active role against the Southside Serpents while the guys of Riverdale just make a lot of noise verbally and vehicularly, which is dismissed by Betty as “mating rituals” like they’re apes, who happen to wear clothes. This is definitely the Betty and Veronica show, and for once, the cold open and then crazy flashback structure doesn’t annoy me as I’m intrigued how two high school girls recruit and train a gang of badass motorcycle riders that talk trash and back it up with the aid of some handy brass knuckles because Rotante and Cabrera like to indulge in all the tropes.
The icing on the cupcake of the fantastic comic that is Betty and Veronica: Vixens is Eva Cabrera’s fantastic eye for fashion and aesthetic as evidenced by her previous work on the two Kim and Kim minis. Her styles are the comic book equivalent of “ready to wear” with the sleek, black styles of the girl gang fitting in with the fluid opening of the book, and her starchy late-80s teen movie look for Betty and Veronica working with the flashback, forced into gender roles part. Elaina Unger’s accentuate the styles with pastels for Betty and darker, earth tones for Veronica until they go all black everything in the motorcycle gang.
Towards the end of 2017, it seems like Archie Comics is going the “Elseworlds” approach with their non-flagship books, and Betty and Veronica: Vixens is a shining example of how this type of philosophy can be successful with quick one-liners and feminist critiques from writer Jamie Lee Rotante, easy to read and stylish storytelling from artist Eva Cabrera, and a varied color palette from Elaina Unger that ranges from Rebel without a Cause to the suburban bits of Edward Scissorhands.
Story: Jamie Lee Rotante Art: Eva Cabrera Colors: Elaina Unger
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy
Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review