Reviewing Betty and Veronica: Senior Year is a bit like reviewing vanilla ice cream. It’s great! You can’t say anything bad about it! You can order it up plain, add sprinkles, douse it in chocolate sauce, stick a cherry on top, the works. But no matter how you dress it up, there’s something tried and true underneath: a formula that works and can be retold again and again while staying fresh, despite whatever toppings you layer over it. With Senior Year, Jamie L. Rotante and Sandra Lanz deliver a solid if unremarkable comic, though that’s not a demerit. The book is good. But it’s Betty and Veronica, and what you see is what you get.
The premise here is that Betty and Veronica have been portrayed in a variety of ways over their 70-plus years, but readers haven’t seen them reach their senior year of high school—until now, of course. And what we get is what you’d expect. The on-again, off-again girlfriends of Riverdale start their senior year as fast friends, have a misunderstanding, a falling out, reconnect, another misunderstanding, feelings of hatred and resentment, repeat ad nauseam until it all somehow works out in the end and we return to the status quo. Betty and Veronica, and some Archie Comics in general, can sometimes feel like the comic book equivalent of a family sitcom with their recycled story lines and predictable plots. And even though that’s the case in Senior Year, that sitcom-feeling is like the warm cozy blanket that prime time television so often delivers.
Rotante’s deft writing handles the cast of Archie characters with demonstrative expertise, and rightly so. She’s written these characters before in other iterations, most notably in Betty and Veronica: Vixens. The plot does feel rote, and anybody who went to or is going to high school will see the tension coming from a thousand miles away. College applications and spurned relationships, all the pinnacles of teenage drama are present. What Rotante excels at is finding the humor in the mundane. Familiar Archie readers always expect there to be a Betty/Veronica tug of war over the affection of Archie Andrews, so Rotante delivers humorous moments, like at a New Year’s Eve party when Archie moves in for a kiss with Betty only to be stifled, or in this clever exchange at prom after Betty and Veronica tend to Archie after he falls off the stage:
Archie: You two just saved my life. And I’m so sorry.
Veronica: About what?
Archie: I just hate to see two best friends fight over me.
Betty and Veronica: HAHAHA!!
(Spoiler: Archie’s love is not at stake, despite his smugness).
The same workhorse principles at play in the writing go for Sandra Lanz’s art. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking here, but the art serves the story in an accessible clear line style. When paired with Kelly Fitzpartick’s colors, readers are met with a visually strong and incredibly readable comic that revels in a bright, diverse palette. The art may not stand out to wow readers, but it simply gets the job done, which is exactly what a book like Senior Year needs.
The theme here is that while Betty and Veronica: Senior Year might be a bit vanilla, that’s exactly the point. Vanilla ice cream tastes good, and there’s enough toppings here to make every bite worthwhile. Archie newcomers and seasoned readers alike will find something to enjoy. Teens will appreciate the lessons of friendship that mirror high school life and even adults will have fun reading what is the comic book equivalent of comfort food.
Betty and Veronica: Senior Year
By Jamie L. Rotante
Art by Sandra Lanz
Archie Comics, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: Teen (age 13 and up)