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Archie & Katy Keene | Review

Archie and Katy Keene coverArchie & Katy Keene
Writers: Mariko Tamaki and Kevin Panetta
Artist: Laura Braga
Archie Comics; $12.99

When Katy Keene became the third based-on-Archie Comics TV show earlier this year, following Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, it became time to reintroduce the 75-year-old comics character to the modern “New Riverdale” era of Archie Comics. The publisher did so in much the same way they did with Sabrina around the time her show joined Riverdale on the small screen, with a miniseries-within-the ongoing Archie series, temporarily renaming it Archie & Katy Keene for four issues.

Now those four issues are available in a trade paperback collection, which can be read as part of the ongoing drama of Archie or as a standalone introduction to the comic book lives of Riverdale’s teens.

It all starts when a mysterious girl starts showing up in Riverdale—and on everyone’s social media feeds. Whoever she is, she’s new, she’s beautiful, she has incredible fashion style and she becomes the center of intense curiosity and speculation from Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Sabrina, and the rest. Archie too takes notice, but not for the reasons one might expect the traditionally girl-crazy teen to do so.

Rather, when Katy and her little sister Sis debut at an open mic night, wearing costumes they designed and covering a Le Tigre song, Archie finds himself outdone and outshone, his newest song getting hardly any attention thanks to the new girl. A big fish in a small town, Archie is not used to being such a distant second place, and he begins to simmer with insecurity and creative jealousy.

It only gets worse when his friends—including his current girlfriend, Sabrina—adopt Katy and Sis into their group, and Veronica even deigns to invest her wealth and connections into helping make Katy’s dreams of being a successful fashion designer come true. Veronica loads up the Lodge family private jet and flies Katy, Sis, Archie, and the whole gang to New York City for a whirlwind visit, including a meeting with a handsome young mover and shaker in the fashion world.

Archie therefore gets to see someone seemingly on the cusp of having their creative ambitions satisfied almost instantly, and he is confused when Katy ultimately rejects the offer and decides to take her own path instead of the one being laid out for her. (At just four issues, or about 80 pages, she still gets a pretty happy ending, and she gets it quite quickly.)

Writers Mariko Tamaki and Keven Panetta take an interesting, somewhat risky approach by foregrounding their hero’s envy and casting him in a less-than-ideal light, but then, that does give the comic its emotional arc and sets up a potentially interesting future, as Archie sees another, perhaps better path to pursue towards meeting his own ambitions.

The book’s main value, however, is in the introduction of the various characters. While there doesn’t seem to be a new Katy Keene comics series in the works at Archie—and the TV show lasting only a single season probably doesn’t given the publisher too much incentive to try one—the book offers a pretty thorough introduction to her and some supporting cast members, as well as setting her up with a status quo removed from the Riverdale setting.

For fans of the Katy Keene show, it also offers an introduction to the most popular of the Archie characters—including Josie and The Pussycats, who briefly appear at the end to play Katy’s climactic fashion show—and gives a sense of who they are and what the tone of the book has been since its 2015 relaunch. That is, not the comedy that some of the Archie comics of the last half-decade have been—and have traditionally always been—but not as bonkers or mature a soap opera as Riverdale. Instead, Archie has fallen somewhere in-between.

Laura Braga provides the art for this storyline, and she’s a good choice for it, as it still exists within the same basic aesthetic originally established by Fiona Staples during the reboot. Given the focus of the story, Braga gets to design a lot of high fashion, and she meets the challenge and exceeds expectations on that front.

The collection includes some paper dolls and other features from the classic Katy Keene comics, in which readers could design outfits for the character and submit them  to see whether or not she donned them. If Archie Comics does decide to pursue a revival of the series at some point, it would be a fun feature to included…although Braga seems more than capable of dressing Katy and company all by herself.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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