Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica #1 starts without any of those women having a voice. The first three pages are narrated by Hiram Lodge, in a TV commercial advertising his plans for destroying Sweetwater Swamp and replacing it with a private university and shopping center. Only on page four do we hear from a woman, when Poison Ivy throws her glass at the TV. Understandable, Ivy — I was frustrated too. She’s upset with the destruction of a unique ecosystem, while I was more frustrated by the fact that my comic about four awesome female characters starts with a rich old white man talking. It’s reminiscent of the current Adam Hughes Betty & Veronica title that’s narrated by Jughead’s dog. That’s not what I’m here for.
But anyway. Ivy is obviously very angry that Hiram Lodge wants to destroy the swamp, so she and Harley head off to Riverdale to convince him to change his mind. Their PowerPoint presentation is not the most effective, so they then turn to their wicked ways to enact change. In classic supervillain style, they heavily hint to Mr. Lodge that they’re planning on kidnapping his daughter, but he of course doesn’t listen.
Betty and Veronica, meanwhile, are sniping at each other from their first panel. Veronica is trying to enlist her schoolmates into decorating for her dad’s Heroes and Villains costume ball, and in an awkward plot point Mr. Weatherbee forces Betty to help in order to bump up her terrible Geometry grade. I’m all for the suspension of disbelief when reading comics, but it’s usually more about superpowers than folks like Weatherbee abusing their power. Actually, now that I think about it, that’s exactly the sort of thing people in power do. Nevermind.
After Betty saves Archie and Jughead’s butts by fixing the smoke machine that they’ve been tasked with setting up, Mr. Lodge thanks them all by giving them tickets to the gala. But oh no, they don’t have costumes! Betty enlists Kevin Keller’s help and he points out that just because he’s gay doesn’t mean he knows fashion. Betty freaks out at the implication, apologizing profusely, before Kevin says he’s “just joshing.” First of all, what teen uses the word “joshing”, and second of all, the lampshading of this joke doesn’t make it better. It’s unnecessary and not actually funny. There are some funny lines in the comic, mostly Kevin and Sabrina making fun of Betty and Veronica’s frenemies dynamic, but it’s mostly an unfunny issue.
It takes until the end of the first issue of Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica before Harley and Ivy actually meet Betty and Veronica, and it’s not quite the big event it’s supposed to be. Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica #1 uses a lot of teen girl mean girl tropes, culminating in a reveal at the end in which, spoiler alert, Betty and Veronica show up at a costume party wearing the same costumes as Harley and Ivy. The horror! Obviously the worst thing that could happen to a young girl, right? Sigh. This is the problem when teen girls are written by older men — there’s a reliance on tropes without any interrogation or emotional understanding of those tropes.
The characterization just feels off. Harley and Ivy are mostly themselves, but writers Paul Dini and Marc Andreyko are DC guys who are familiar with these characters (and in Dini’s case, co-created Harley Quinn). But Betty and Veronica display none of the friendship that makes their fights so powerful — they just hate each other, and we don’t really get to see why. Betty and Veronica are most interesting when they’re friends who find themselves on different sides of an issue because of ideological differences or loyalty to family, having to fight your best friend is where the interesting conflict comes from. There’s no evidence here that Betty and Veronica were ever friends.
Laura Braga’s art is fine — expressive faces, great hair. It’s just disconcerting to see teen girls drawn with bodies that look just as mature as Harley and Ivy’s, with boring fashion that just emphasizes those curves. Tony Aviña and Arif Prianto’s colorwork is painterly but the palette feels all wrong for the story. It needs more energy and brighter colors. Supervillains and teens are often over-the-top, the colors should be the same.
Overall, Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica #1 is a disappointing story with low stakes that relies on boring mean girl tropes. It has none of the heart that we expect from Archie Comics, or Harley and Ivy’s beautiful relationship.