By Jamie Lee Rotante, Eva Cabrera, Elaina Unger, Rachel Deering
Taking risks with established characters is nothing new for Archie Comics. Over the past couple of years there have been some wacky crossovers as well as their exploration into horror that took Riverdale’s teens beyond their comfort zone. But Vixens is something entirely different. If anything, it makes Betty and Veronica forming a biker gang with their friends feel as if it was always meant to be. And not only that, it has so much fun doing it.
Writer Jamie L. Rotante has shown that she can entertainingly convey so much in what seems like so little space. Much of this issue is dedicated to putting the team together and it’s quickly paced, spending only a couple of pages to add each new member. However, in the span of these pages we understand what they might get out of joining as well as what role they’ll play. It makes each person feel just as important as the titular duo. Midge and Ethel are the standouts, but the tough Toni and Evelyn are pretty great too, especially in their interactions with the whole group. The only character that begs for more development is Southside Serpent Penny, but there is a groundwork there for the future.
Vixens’s approach to a biker gang handles easily what’s essential in any team story: friendship. While the Southside Serpents may be on the horizon, the best moments of this issue reinforce the idea that the gang exists to support each other rather than against any single threat. In response to Archie creating their current mess, they’ve not only taken his idea and pushed it to its full potential, but also are establishing connections that will build on who they are. It’s a great message that feels right at home with its characters and pushes them beyond their roles in previous incarnations.
Eva Cabrera’s art fits perfectly with this established tone, filled with expressions that double down on the dialogue. Every face feels unique, matching its character’s sensibilities in response to the current situation. For example, a dirty joke might elicit a laugh from someone like Toni but only an eye roll from Veronica. The individuality doesn’t stop there, with every member of the Vixens having fitting designs for their outfits, both on and off their bikes. Evelyn’s “Kiss Me” shirt paired with her scar and devilish bright eyes sums up everything you need to know about her. With colorist Elaina Unger, this all helps to breathe life into the page and gives the series a bright edge. One page in particular felt like a montage scene straight from a movie, showing how the Vixens got their outfits, skills, bikes, and weapons all without words.
While Vixens might seem like another spin-off title, in reality it’s a realization of the potential for Archie’s female characters. By focusing on the relationships between them rather than intense action, the creative team capture the spirit of the characters while moving them forward in a book with plenty of heart. It’s hard not to get invested in Riverdale’s badass new gang and get swept along for the ride.