When you think of the all-time great daters in comic book history, Archie Andrews immediately springs to mind. The teenager from Riverdale has been in different stages of relationships with at least two women for the better part of eighty years; perhaps the only love triangle in American comics older than the one between Archie, Betty Cooper, and Veronica Lodge is the one between Superman, Lois Lane, and Clark Kent. It’s appropriate, then, that Archie Comics should do something special for Valentine’s Day, and this year’s Archie & Friends Guide to Dating celebrates that essential element of the series with a quartet of classic-style stories that highlight what has made the franchise endure for eight decades.
The central figure in all four of the Archie & Friends Guide to Dating is, naturally, Archie himself, and the stories follow him in a number of dating-related scenarios, whether it’s going on a date himself or helping others with their relationship troubles. The stories — written by Francis Bonnet and Bill Golliher, pencilled by Jeff Shultz and Bill Galvan, inked by Jim Amash, Bob Smith, and Ben Galvan, colored by Glenn Whitmore, and lettered by Jack Morelli — drive home Archie’s inherent good-heartedness, as well as his inability to get out of his own way.
To the former element, Archie will never learn not to trust Reggie Mantle when he offers to help, because Archie wants to see the good in everyone. Archie will always agree to help Moose or Dilton with their dating questions even if it’s to the detriment of his own relationships, because Archie wants to be a helpful friend. It’s those qualities that have kept Betty and Veronica (and Cheryl Blossom, and Valerie Brown, and…) from dumping him outright for all these years, and they’re what keep readers coming back for more of the character’s stories.
It’s the latter element, though, that makes Archie stories so consistently entertaining: he just can’t help but mess things up for himself. Archie doesn’t make the best decisions, though he always has the best of intentions when he does. Archie wants to help Dilton, and he gives good advice, but bringing him along on his dates with Betty and Veronica is ill-advised to say the least. Likewise, agreeing to help Reggie go on two dates at the same time causes nothing but trouble for Archie. It’s watching those bad decisions come back to bite him that makes for the most fun Archie stories, and this one-shot delivers.
There’s something particularly comforting about sitting down to read an Archie comic. Whether it’s classic style or new, the basic tenets of these characters have remained steady since their inception. Reading the Archie & Friends Guide to Dating one-shot is like dropping in on some old friends, and it makes me want to check in on them more often.
From Archie Comics, the Archie & Friends Guide to Dating one-shot is available in stores and digitally now.