Papa, Don’t Preach – An “Archie #7” Review
Story by: Mark Waid
Art by: Veronica Fish
Colors by: Andre Szymanowicz & Jen Vaughn
Lettering by: Jack Morelli
It can’t be easy to pull off storylines that don’t focus on the title character when dealing with primarily point-of-view driven narratives the way Archie does, but that’s what’s going on with the Reggie subplot – and, to a more minor extent so far, the Betty subplot being teased in the background – that’s continuing to unfold in Archie #7. It’s a great time to be a Reggie and Veronica fan, that’s for sure, but Archie still manages to guide us through the story with a compassionate and uniquely clumsy charm that’s easy to appreciate.
Waid’s Archie continues to be an oddly compelling narrator, which also can’t be the easiest thing to pull off when, generally, his personality gets outshined by his supporting cast – most notably Jughead – but it works so well for this story, especially whenever the storyline veers from Archie’s problems and leaves him with gaps in awareness to his surroundings. Again, the loom of Betty’s new relationship with Sayid Ali (the cute soccer player from issue #6) is hinted but not yet explored, though no doubt that will be getting more panel-time as well as – hopefully – more introspection on Betty’s end in upcoming issues, but the action/conflict of this issue revolves around three main points: The Lodges and Archie/Reggie’s respective relationships with them, Archie and Jughead’s friendship, and Reggie’s father issues. Reggie served as a catalyst for Archie and Jughead being on the outs with each other and now also acts as the uniting factor that brings them back together, though it’s hard to say if there still won’t be further turbulence down the line, since the issue between them has been more set aside for now than it has been actually resolved. He’s also the catalyst of tension between Veronica and her father, who are at an odds over Archie’s destruction of their mansion because, while Veronica knows that Archie is guilty in that respect, she’s still very much stubborn (in her Veronica-type way) in her affection for him that she’ll fight for both him and their relationship until she gets her way.
Something I find interesting is that, though there definitely are already strong narrative contrasts/parallels between Archie and Reggie – some that driven home this issue when Archie refuses to retaliate against Reggie by using his own actions against him, as Reggie has already done to him – the parallels between Veronica and Reggie are what really stand out once we meet Reggie’s dad. It’s already been made obvious that Reggie doesn’t get enough attention from his own family, although through his newly formed connection with Mr. Lodge suddenly his dad wants to spend time with him and Reggie doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself. Perhaps because, as we soon see, the two of them are not dissimilar, but Mr. Mantle is obnoxious in a way that is less malicious than Reggie’s tactics of choice, yet still obviously harmful in its own way. It’s a distinctly different relationship than Veronica has with her father, which seems to be the kind of relationship Reggie also wants, if not with his own father, than with Mr. Lodge as well (but maybe with his own father, too.) Having a good relationship with the Lodges, especially Mr. Lodge, has so far been Reggie’s more evident priority than seducing Veronica, with whom his interactions have seemed more like a means to an end… but that’s just my opinion.
One thing I do hope we can look forward to in future issues is how ultimately Reggie will end up folded into the group of friends, since I feel like to avoid the “frenemies” aspect of his relationship with the others – not unlike Veronica’s relationship with Betty – entirely in favor of keeping him in a strict antagonist role loses something significant; it’s a core dynamic that would be great to see handled under a single, consistent writer like Waid who definitely has the skills to balance it well, and could easily pull off transitioning Reggie from “the villain” to “the jerk that gets tolerated but only barely, sometimes.” I say “hope” mostly because given the nature of the pacing and personalities in play, Reggie clearly has a long way to go before any real positive relationships may be a reality for him, but that’s fine; like with Veronica I have no major concerns regarding Waid’s ability to integrate the characters with the greater cast in a way that remains true to them, the story he’s telling, and what we know and love about these stories from the get-go all at the same time – that, and I think before Reggie can become part of the group in anything resembling a “friendly” way, I’d like to see some of the other characters – such as Sheila, Maria, Raj, Sayid, and Kevin – further spotlighted first. Rather than orbit the background as friends, catty commentators, or plot-movers, I look forward to seeing them come into their own as actual developed characters with their own depths to be explored, even if we still have some time before this storyline wraps up and they get some of their own.
Now it’s time to shift gears from talking Reggie to finally, as I always do, talk about the art. Veronica Fish’s expressive style only seems to get better and more dynamic with every issue, and this time around I found myself definitely caught up in noticing her incredible attention to details. The pages are full of little things to look at, from Veronica’s family photos, to the design of the “Blue Plate Special” advertisement in Pop Tate’s store window (and everything in his shop, actually), the cactus and family photo in Ricky Mantle’s office, and the assorted storefronts we see characters passing in front of, but it doesn’t stop there. Fish has already got a great lock on the characters and their individual ranges of expressions and body language, but her overall usage of body language in general is just so smoothly and comfortably executed that the pages flow without a moment of hesitation, every panel communicating itself perfectly. This is further assisted through the vibrant colors of Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn, who really bring a richness to environments like Veronica’s mansion, Mr. Mantle’s office (I love his pink computer), Pop’s shop, and outside/around Riverdale. The sunset skies that frame Archie and Veronica’s conversation are gorgeous, and the use of dramatic lighting throughout the issue is subtle, striking, and fabulous.
Now that we’ve left the #LipstickIncident behind us, Archie presents us with our next mystery hashtag, #WhatDidReggieDo. We can assume that, probably, his record is unrelated to his penchant for extremely reckless driving or using fake IDs to get into 18+ clubs with older women, since he still does both those things without any evident shame, but like with the #LipstickIncident it seems silly to dwell too hard on the speculation since it’s no doubt meant to be something surprising. What I feel like the question that #WhatDidReggieDo really leaves us with is, will the reveal serve to make him more narratively sympathetic, or more narratively repulsive? Based on the way this arc is going my guess would be either the former, or the latter as a lead in to the former, but whatever it is does have Reggie upset enough to sabotage his situation himself rather than wait for the axe of blackmail to fall. Ominous!