Review by Joe Palmer
Look at that face! Blond, blue-eyed, big smile! Can you get any “boy next door” normal more than this? Not really in the world of Archie comics unless you’re talking about company namesake Archie Andrews himself. This is a good thing except to the evangelical and conservatives crowds who gnashed their teeth and rent their garments over the 72 year old company joining the decades long culture war on the side of the “libs and homos”. How do you say “no” to a character who created enough demand that the publisher did a second print for the first time in its history? Thankfully the publisher ignored the outrage and stuck with its decision to feature Kevin Keller in a solo, ongoing title.
Writer Dan Parent has Kevin breaking the fourth wall in the issue’s opening sequence by catching up readers with a brief recap of the four part Keller story that ran in the Veronica book before apprising us of his most recent accomplishments: first week as class president, first article in the town paper, first teen journalist award. Yes, Kevin excels at everything he tries. Almost everything that is except dating. And so, Kevin goes from being the teenager every teen, both in the fictional Riverdale and our world, either wants as a friend or to emulate to being the kid who flies into a panic attack at the idea of dating. And so we have another first for Kevin, his first date. First though we must have wacky hijinks.
Betty tries to calm Kevin’s high anxiety with some advice that leaves both of them in doubt and if Kevin is going to have gal pals I hope Parent will give us more Betty in the interest of offsetting Veronica. The idea of having Reggie offer to help Kevin get ready for his date is wonderful in essence. In the story Reggie’s motivation is to get on the good side of Kevin as class president. Remember, these characters have been stuck in high school for over 70 years so Reggie knows he has to work things in his favor as Kevin isn’t going anywhere soon unless Rick Santorum is elected President and sends all the real and fictional gays packing. Seeing Kevin agree to try on Reggie’s clothing suggestions in the store and then relenting to wear a disco style outfit home elicits chuckles, a reaction I thought I’d never have from an Archie comic. Yes, I can be a smug comic snob. Veronica shows up to act hurt when all she really needs is reassurance from her newest and cutest BFF. Even Archie and Jughead offer their own takes on how to date before the fateful day. Kevin finally stops obsessing about the matter by helping his father with yard work, so of course Brian his date shows up and Kevin is totally undone by the realization that he’d forgotten which day it was. Parent plays it up with nearly as much slapstick as an I Love Lucy episode. Oh dear, I just dated myself and lost everyone under 25, didn’t I? Carol Burnett then? Not helping, is it? Doesn’t matter, and commenter Anthony suggests using The Simpsons, so The Simpsons it is! The important point is the date and every conversation and incident preceding it are treated with the same manner that a date between Archie and either Betty or Veronica would be. To show one’s shortcomings and vulnerabilities, to be able to laugh at one’s self, and to be accepted for as equal is laudable message and kudos to Parent for crafting it in Riverdale style. The issue ends with Kevin meeting Brian at the front door to leave on their date. Considering the monumental leap forward by Archie Comics with Keller I do hope we will soon see romantic depictions of Kevin and Brian or another male. The next issue promises the dilemma of who Kevin will take to the dance and also a secret admirer. Intuition tells me it will be the former bully from another school who showed up unexpectedly in the four parter Veronica/ Kevin story.