Kevin Keller, the first openly gay character in Riverdale, was billed as a shock to the Archie system, yet he’s been integrated in seamlessly, or so it would appear. “Kevin Keller,” the book, opens by showcasing all our new friend has done in just over a year of publication. The man is exceedingly popular and while he can obviously be used to teach different lessons in the Archieverse, he is also at his core a character being rounded out over time.
If you think this comic is some sort of political checkbox or publicity stunt then you are way off the mark. Kevin Keller is a sign that Archie Comics as a publisher and an entity on the shelves wishes to stay current and to reflect the diverse readership. It is nice to then report what a resounding success Kevin Keller is in nearly all ways. It is especially nice that Kevin Keller is a regular person and his sexual orientation isn’t the first thing you need think about at all.
Once the recap of Kevin Keller’s world is told, the rest of the issue deals with Kevin Keller’s dating woes. It would not have been many years ago that such a concept, especially in a book so often aimed at younger readers, would have been trashed on many fronts. The deft smoothness with which Dan Parent addresses these issues is to be applauded. A young gay man isn’t presented as a concept but just yet another character in Riverdale trying to find a little weekend fun. None of the characters bat an eyelid and Parent smartly swerves away from anyone heckling from the background. One can only hope if it is presented as normal to the reader then it will be accepted as normal, and that’s a concept not enough fiction can present to the future generation.
Ultimately, this is a fun comic. If you dig Archie’s style of high school hijinx and relationship woes then you’ll surely dig this. The only difference is some sexual orientation, but at its core this is a fun story with plenty of gags and loads of material to make you happy.
Parent’s art is simple and wholly effective. There’s nothing flashy and that’s kind of the point. There shouldn’t be one Archie title that strays from the house style. Consistency is key and it works in every page here. My main issue, however, would be Kevin Keller’s hair; he clearly parts it on one side at the front and yet whenever he turns his head the hair part flops away from the reader. There is also one different section, in the middle of the book, where we get two pages of ‘B & V Retro Fashion’ showcasing the trio wearing different clothes. It’s kind of strange and yet exactly what this comic needs.
“Kevin Keller” could easily be presented as a ‘very special episode’ of Archie, but this comic doesn’t take that easy route out. Kevin Keller is just another kid in Riverdale and such acceptance and understanding is brilliant, especially in the way it doesn’t pat itself on the back for thinking so. If you want to feel good, pick up this book. If you want to make someone else feel good, or maybe a little more understanding, then throw this book their way. Wholesome is just the start of this book.