Previously in Archie #3
Story: Mark Waid
Art: Annie Wu
Coloring: Andre Szymanowicz with Jen Vaughn
Lettering: Jack Morelli
Ah, love. What a persuasive, fickle thing it is.
The fourth issue of Archie begins with a shock to our titular nerd’s system. Jug attempts to extend a peace offering in the form of Archie’s favorite candy bar, but it immediately made him recall what went down between him and his former paramour, Betty Cooper, months ago.
In typical fashion, the aloof redhead breaks the fourth wall and asks readers “You want to hear about it?” Well of course we want to know, Arch! Lay it on us, you goofy ginger dingbat!
It turns out the infamous lipstick incident had a far more profound effect on Betty and Archie’s relationship few expected. The pair, for all intents and purposes, had a near-perfect connection. Practically inseparable, Cooper and Andrews weren’t written as two teens who lived for one another’s love. Rather they were unusually mature and complimented each other’s quirks as they expanded one another’s view of the world.
What was particularly stunning was the cruel, shameless, and downright unpleasant attitudes of Betty’s classmates. Apparently Cooper isn’t looked upon as a girl at all but a boisterous tomboy that for the life of others, is exactly the kind of partner Archie desires. Of course, they can’t stand by that nonsense. The girls were either jealous Betty had 100% of Archie’s attention, or believed Andrews deserved a better girlfriend based on her appearance. Their disdain and eventual intervention was a damning play by Mark Waid who effectively modeled a situation many of us have experienced: no matter their good intentions, “friends” can be as invasive and harmful as our worst enemy.
Archie overhears a pair of classmates talking mad trash about Betty’s appearance and overall behavior. Though he corrects them real quick, the girls overstep their bounds soon after by acquainting themselves with Cooper in hopes to alter her into their acceptable standards. The more they sunk their claws into Betty, the more it avalanched into a situation that no longer was about Cooper, but forcing her to think and act like the rest of the girls.
The most surprising aspect of issue four – chapter three: #lipstickincident – is Archie’s harsh reaction to Betty’s “beautification”. Apparently, that wasn’t Cooper’s first makeover in issue two; in that instance her gussying up held more weight than we knew at the time. That was done as a means to move on from Archie; in this flashback, Betty was grudgingly made over to appear more attractive to Andrews and boy, did it NOT. WORK.
Rather, Betty’s revelation in issue four brought forth all the doubts, insecurities and vitriol many expect in the ordeals of young lovers. Archie’s behavior towards Betty was especially disappointing. For a boy who claimed only a half dozen pages before that Betty made his world a better place, he didn’t mince words about how her “transformation” spoiled their perfect slice of life. What a goddamn supercilious little snob. Archie is typically portrayed as a teen that does his darndest to see the best in everyone and make the best of every situation, despite his own failings. This sudden shift reveals a selfish side of Andrews that’s seldom been seen in the last 75 years.
Given their relatively inexperienced perspective on life and relationships, their argument isn’t so much a surprise as it was an inevitability.
Archie may appreciate Betty as she is, but his contentment shouldn’t have to come at the cost of Betty’s ability to choose, to expand her view of womanhood… whether it works out for her or not. That is all the reason required to break up with Big Red. Life doesn’t revolve around him, Betty doesn’t cater to his every whim. She shouldn’t jump up at his ready. Cooper may be comfortable rolling in motor oil and having dirt in her hair while hanging with Archie. However his acrimony to her for wearing a simple dress is a grave concern that surely required distance so his problems could be addressed internally.
Obviously, the two are on better terms since the Incident, though some old habits have been hard to break. In a way, the Lipstick Incident could be a good thing for both; the result of which is hopefully compel the kids to grow and learn as sympathetic, empowered people. The path has been set, although there are considerable obstacles ahead in the form of Veronica Lodge and Reggie Mantle.
What have you thought of the new Archie series so far? Let us know in the comments below!
Variant Roundtable: Mahmud Asrar, Francesco Francavilla, Jaime Hernandez with Rosario “Tito” Peña, Joe Quinones, Paul Renaud
Though this is Archie’s show, Betty is a character who’s quickly becoming a favorite and issue four has solidified mine and hopefully many other readers’ attitudes on who is the more dynamic teenager.
Though Fiona Staples was essential to breathing new life in an old Riverdale, artist Annie Wu has continued the energy and “zip” typical in every panel with her respective flair.
The rapid humanization of the Riverdale kids has been a rich, encompassing storyline that’s revitalized the Archie universe in four short issues. No longer are they one-dimensional teenagers that get into ridiculous hijinks that result in little consequence. Archie, Betty and the others are steadily becoming complex characters, rife with doubts, concerns and secrets.