They’re the famous frenemies of Rivedale High, while the others are Gotham’s most infamous gal pals. What hi-jinks will ensue when Harley and Ivy cross paths with Betty and Veronica? Not a whole lot, actually, at least not yet.
Throwing together these two duos is a stroke of genius on the part of DC Comics and Archie Comics, capitalizing on the surge in popularity for both properties — Harley only just celebrated her 25th anniversary, while The CW’s Riverdale returns for an a second season next week. Still, just because the idea sounds great on paper (and even looks great thanks to a playful cover from Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts) the execution of this great idea is clunky.
The issue opens with Hiram Lodge, Veronica’s wealthy father and Riverdale’s most important citizen, announcing a project to transform Sweetwater Swamp into a new campus for his proposed Lodge University (as well as Lodge’s Sweetwater Shopping Center). Of course, his plans to bulldoze the swamp put him squarely in Poison Ivy’s cross hairs. She enlists Harley Quinn to accompany her to Riverdale where she intends to convince Hiram to save the swamp – and if not, they’ll kidnap his daughter.
Speaking of Veronica, she’s been sent to round up hapless highs chool students to help decorate for her father’s upcoming costume party, which is also functioning as a fundraiser for the university project. This only fuels Betty’s frustration with Veronica, pitting the quintessential girl next door against the popular rich girl in typical fashion.
To be blunt, the decades long depiction of Betty and Veronica as two girls who can never get along and constantly fight over Archie has always bothered me. Thankfully, the more recent Archie Comics series and even the Riverdale TV show have softened those characterizations, allowing Betty and Veronica to be friends, even though they bicker, and stop defining them solely by their relationship to Archie.
Unfortunately, in this issue, writers Paul Dini and Marc Andreyko fall back on those old stereotypes, to the point that both Betty and Veronica are insufferable. From the moment they’re first introduced to when they’re choosing costumes for the party, the two never stop going at one another. It’s ridiculous to think these two could stand to be around each other, let alone agree to dress as a pair for the costume party, and having to follow along as they argue makes for a tiresome read.
Dini and Andreyko do a much better job in writing Harley and Ivy, which isn’t at all surprising. Still, much of Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica #1 is setup for Ivy’s scheme, so there isn’t much time for the kind of madcap antics these two anti-heroes/villains usually stir up. But there’s still time for that, as is there the potential for Harls and Ivy to maybe teach Betty and Veronica a lesson about the importance of female friendships.
As an introductory issue, the exposition laid out in Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica #1 is uneven, and the artwork is similarly so. Laura Braga draws beautiful women, but they come across as stiff, more like portraits or pinups than full characters. This hurts the students of Riverdale more than than it does the supervillains, with there being little difference in the depictions of teenage Betty and Veronica and the adult Harley and Ivy. This is most painfully obvious when – SPOILER – the costumes Betty and Veronica choose are of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. Were it not for the decision to have the real Harley and Ivy dress in their classic attire and Betty and Veronica in more modern costumes, there’d be no way to tell who is who.
The premise of this crossover can still deliver a funny and wild adventure, pairing together two wildly different sets of gal pals – but only if forthcoming issues give us a reason to believe Betty and Veronica are friends. Braga’s artwork could use a little more variety, too, better distinguishing between the leading ladies. Issue #2 will be the true test of what this series can be now that Betty and Veronica are finally face to face with Harley and Ivy, but it’s got some work to do to make this crossover as enjoyable as we hoped.