Comics – The Ultimate Test

World-of-BV-Digest-22Writer: Ian Flynn
Pencils: James Fry
Inks: Bob Smith
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: Jack Morelli
Original Publication: World of Betty and Veronica Jumbo Comics Digest, No. 22
On-Sale Date: January 25, 2023
Length: 5 pages

For those of you that might be wondering what’s going on at Archie Comics these days, there’s:

*the occasional horror-themed one-shot, usually starting with the title “Chilling Adventures Presents…”, which is basically Archie Comics’ way of saying “Hey, guys! Archie Horror is still a thing! Remember Chilling Adventures of Sabrina?!”

*the much-less-frequent one-shot devoted to Riverdale or New Riverdale (and I say it’s New Riverdale solely due to the more modern artwork)

*new 5-page stories leading the digests and the otherwise-all-reprint floppies (sometimes you get two or even three new stories in a digest)

*a weekly meta webcomic titled Bite Sized Archie (which is pretty funny but shouldn’t be taken at all seriously as far as canon goes)

*another weekly webcomic exploring a possible future titled Big Ethel Energy (currently on hiatus between “seasons” as of this writing)

And that’s about it as far as comics go. As far as Classic Archieverse continuity, not much is actually happening, since five pages really isn’t enough space to do much of anything.

Archie Comics occasionally tries to make headlines by introducing new characters whose sole purpose is to fill some kind of niche. These characters usually have some combination of traits (usually already represented individually in older characters) and make a big splash in their first appearance, only to be reduced to tag-along, hey-I’m-still-here status in their subsequent appearances.

The other thing that they’ve been doing is reaching deep into their history and publishing new stories starring rather obscure detective and superhero characters. These characters haven’t been seen in new stories in probably decades and, as far as I know, had never interacted with the Riverdale gang before. But they’ve been appearing in new stories, interacting with the company’s far-more-famous characters, for a few years now. The general fan consensus seems to be it’s being done to retain the rights to the characters. I find it annoying, though. Sometimes, the superhero characters interact with the superhero personas of the Riverdale characters (yeah, there’s a microcontinuity where that’s a thing). Other times, the superheroes are hired by or enlist the Riverdale characters for one reason or another. As a rule, I don’t consider the Riverdale-teens-as-superheroes stories canon for the Archieverse at large, but the other stories, where the superheroes show up and interact with the regular, non-superpowered versions of the Riverdale gang, are more of a gray area.

Such is the case with this story. It stars Mr. Justice. An opening blurb fills us in on who the fuck this guy is, because Goddess knows most people would be hopelessly confused otherwise. “An ancient spirit who molded his persona on the superheroes of today so that he might dole out justice. He is timeless. He is powerful. He is–Mr. Justice” If you want more info, here it is, courtesy of Wikipedia: “Mr. Justice, also known as “The Royal Wraith,” was the superhero moniker of Prince James of England, who was murdered by rebels in the 18th century. His spirit remained trapped in the castle where the murder took place until 1940. The dismantled castle was to be shipped to the United States until a Nazi submarine sunk the ship on which it was carried, thereby releasing the spirit of Prince James. He assumed corporeal form as “Mr. Justice,” and his main nemesis was Satan himself. He first appeared in Blue Ribbon Comics #9 (Feb. 1941), and was created by writer Joe Blair and artist Sam Cooper.” So, yeah, talk about reaching way back. Anyway, let’s get into the story:

It starts with four random students walking outside Pembrooke Academy and gossiping about Cheryl. Oh, fuck you. It was established a little over four months earlier that Cheryl attends Riverdale High. I’d chalk this up to the writers not coordinating with each other, but both stories were written by the same fucking writer! That writer is Ian Flynn, the company’s go-to person for writing new stories featuring all of these obscure characters (and who also writes the Sonic comics, first at Archie and now elsewhere). This fuck-up is yet another reason to not take this story too seriously.

Anyway, apparently, Cheryl “has turned over a new leaf”, all thanks to her “new life coach”, a superhero. Yeah, these schoolmates of hers just know this somehow. Oh, Pembrooke Academy is using uniforms again. I mention this, because, while there were uniforms in the 1980s stories and the 2010-2011 “Queen B” storyline (this is a correction to my previous misdating of the story), Pembrooke Academy did not have uniforms in the Cheryl Blossom solo series (1995-2000). By the way, Cheryl has green eyes in this story.

Anyway, the four students meet up with Cheryl. One of them, Bethany, compliments her appearance. Cheryl says she knows and asks about Bethany’s shoes. Bethany says they’re “the latest style from Milan” and asks Cheryl if she likes them. Cheryl gets enraged, says she loves them, and is pissed that Bethany seized upon a trend before she did. She says she could tear Bethany down to the bottom rung of the social ladder with a word. When Mr. Justice appears behind her, Cheryl suddenly gets happy for Bethany and thanks her for clueing her into the style. She walks away with a “Toodles!”, leaving the students scared (for some reason) and Mr. Justice with a headache.

Cheryl spots a new, handsome blond student and considers getting “the rumor mill churning”, so she can “have him isolated and friendless by lunch”, then she’ll “appear before him” as his “loving salvation”. Mr. Justice takes issue with this, so Cheryl decides to talk to the guy and see if they have any common interests instead, because that “seems to work for the townies”.

Soon, in class, a male student sitting with Cheryl expresses worry about the “hard” test on Friday. Cheryl can afford to “barter for answers” and suggests he make her an offer for enough for a passing grade. Mr. Justice appears with his disapproving look, and Cheryl is upset that he expects her to study and succeed on her own merits. That she reconsiders and decides it’s a “novel idea”, and her schedule is much lighter without the plotting and scheming. The guy sitting next to her is scared. Wait. Does he see Mr. Justice? Did the other four students see him outside earlier? If so, then why is no one else reacting?

That night, at home, a tired Cheryl is on her way to bed after a “fulfilling and productive day”. She feels like a new her. Taking Mr. Justice’s hand (somehow), Cheryl admits she was dubious when he appeared (no further backstory given), but she cheerfully says he’s been a “good sport”. Cheryl says step 1 of the program is complete, and there are “just” 278 to go. She says she’ll see him in the morning. Mr. Justice flops down in a chair in the hallway (somehow), exhausted (somehow). The end.

This story was really weird. It’d be a perfectly serviceable Cheryl story in 1983, but it feels so wildly out of place in 2023, because it undoes so much of Cheryl’s history and character development. If you want to consider this story canon at all, it’d be best to place it in 1980s continuity, during Cheryl’s first time in Riverdale.


Author: markmooreauthor

I love watching anime and superhero movies, and I love playing video games. I also write fan fiction and original fiction.

2 thoughts on “Comics – The Ultimate Test”

  1. They still have the classic paperback collections going (Laugh came out back in January and there is another 60s companion to the Betty & Veronica Decades one from last year, though it’s probably going to be made up of same reprints).

    The Archies in India recently came out in anticipation of the Netflix film (whenever that comes out).

    It’s a damn shame what to Sabrina though; they made a whole hoopla about it returning to print and there’s been nothing since (Aguirre-Sacasa’s still has too much on his plate).

    But Cheryl’s got a new story this week (“Yacht’s Wrong With You?!”), so that’s good news for you!

    Liked by 1 person

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