Review: HARLEY & IVY MEET BETTY & VERONICA #1

When I first found out that this crossover event was coming out, I was very excited. This was a chance for the non-monogamous lovers Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn to get the same type of somehow both very explicit and subtextual treatment that is prevalent in the Archie world when it comes to sexual experimentation and queerness. This introductory issue has more than a few problems, but it was still an enjoyable read. If you are looking for a fun source of escapism and don’t mind the occasional hiccup, this is a great choice.

Paul Dini and Marc Andreyko very effectively work the two worlds together. When Poison Ivy hears that Hiram Lodge is trying to drain Sweetwater Swamp in order to turn the site into a new university, she tells Harley to “pack your bats and mallets” and they set off. Poison Ivy’s displays of power are not jarring in the least and she is the commanding force of the issue. It is nice to see Harley Quinn as a rational character who is still fun; however, it is very out of character for her to not let Ivy kiss someone. Thankfully, I did get one moment that I was looking for: the fact that Harley Quinn is casually doing ropes while Poison Ivy is down below surrounded by her plants. This gives the impression that the girls are happily living together much the way that Archie traditionally operates on a read between the lines level. Another example of this is all the possible evidence people find for the long-lasting theory that Betty and Veronica’s relationship is far from only being an antagonistic one based around a man they are both interested in. Those fans will see yet more in this issue. There are lots of other little things that are quite enjoyable such as when Bettie and Veronica select their costumes for the hero and villains themed ball and momentarily dress up as Spy vs Spy and the appearance of a Secret Origins version of Archie in a couple panels. Unfortunately, there are issues throughout as well. One thing that stuck out as a particularly big source of worry for this kind of event is when Kevin calls out the stereotype that all gay men are good with fashion, but then describes it as a gene, quickly falls right into it, and later describes his important comment as “just joshing.” Also, the costume sequence includes the girls dressed as an apple and Sir Isaac Newton. Unless that apple had some unknown ulterior motive for falling on Newton’s head, I am not sure how that fits the hero and villain theme.

On the surface, Laura Braga’s art is gorgeous and clean. The style perfectly encapsulates the tones of both worlds and maintains a feeling of seamlessness. This is indeed worth praising. The thing is, looking a little harder, the art becomes a problem. The aforementioned costume sequence is really fun; however, the full page featuring the options that were rejected is essentially only three panels that are copied and repeated with very little alteration. This wouldn’t bother me as much if that was the biggest issue, but there is very little differentiation between many of the characters faces and this makes the big reveal at the end a huge failure. Makeup should not be the only major difference between the women and the men’s faces too are fairly interchangeable. There are also little issues such as Harley Quinn’s business attire changing from a full-length button down, to a half-shirt, to possibly the lower half being mesh? Ultimately, it is really nice art if you don’t look too close.

Overall, this is an issue that I still did enjoy despite its problems. It introduces the crossover storyline and  does so in a logical way and character driven way. It’s far from perfect, but it does make me want to pick up the next issue. And, in the end, that is what it was supposed to do. Fans of Archie will definitely want to check it out and so will Harley and Ivy shippers. It’s not a party yet, but it is fun.

(W) Paul Dini, Marc Andreyko (A) Laura Braga (CA) Amanda Conner

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