Review by Frank Plowright
Spoilers in review
Jamie Lee Rotante’s starting point is that for all the stories published over the years about Betty and Veronica’s childhood, adult life married or not to Archie, and assorted versions where they’re biker gang leaders or werewolves, there’s never been one about their final year of high school.
The sample art provides Senior Year in a nutshell. It’s attractively drawn by Sandra Lanz, while Rotante can’t get to grips with the personalities. Those word balloons read as dialogue rather than anything people, let alone teenage girls, would actually say. They’re explaining the plot or trying too hard to be clever, and while making some allowance for this being comics and needing to convey information in concise packages, all too often throughout Senior Year this problem recurs. That sample page introduces the predicament facing Betty and Veronica for much of the story: which college should they attend? Should it be their choice, what their parents recommend, or where their friends are heading?
Over and above the more realistic look, this isn’t Betty and Veronica as we know them. You won’t see anyone offering them alcohol in the regular comics, but were that to occur the likelihood is that the reaction wouldn’t be a squeal of horror and a text to Archie. Instead we’d see the person concerned receive their come-uppance in an imaginatively amusing way. It’s just one of a toppling domino set of events echoing real world problems faced by the girls, and everything comes across as staged when unfortunate incident follows rift enabling reconciliation. It’s dull.
That’s not down to the art. Lanz isn’t provided with many opportunities to draw happy faces, but manages the task of creating teenage trauma. Her pencils are a little looser toward the end, with less detail, including a spectacularly under-attended prom.
For all that Betty and Veronica are supposed to be friends – friendly rivals at worst – we see precious little friendship here, just a succession of disagreements. The best part of the entire book is the selection of variant covers to the serialised issues by some top artists. What’s announced as a bonus comic is in fact the first chapter of a Sabrina the Teenage Witch graphic novel. Want to know what happens next? Buy the graphic novel. How tacky! We’ll save you the trouble. A school teacher is jealous of the witches hierarchy in Greenvale and is transforming Sabrina’s classmates into mythical monsters.
The concept of a more realistic portrayal of Betty and Veronica isn’t a non-starter, but Senior Year fixates on misery with very little contrast. We’d hope Rotante’s own senior year was a happier experience.