A seemingly unlikely crossover that definitely succeeds in its debut issue.
Written by Paul Dini
and Marc Andreyko
Illustrated by Laura Braga
Colored by Tony Aviña
and Arif Prianto
Free college tuition for all Riverdale residents?! That’s the plan—after the town drains the wetlands that lie between it and Gotham City and then builds a new campus. The only snag? A certain botany-obsessed super-villain. When Poison Ivy enlists her bestie, Harley, to kidnap both Veronica Lodge, daughter of Riverdale’s most important citizen, and her friend Betty, she’s counting on some assistance—and the mayhem that ensues will probably work as well!
The Riverdale multiverse may be growing like a weed, but with famed industrialist Hiram Lodge planning to drain and develop Sweetwater Swamp – home to dozens of species of rare plants that exist nowhere else in the world – Gotham’s most notorious botanist, Poison Ivy, refuses to stand idly by and do nothing about it. “Pack your bats and mallets,” she tells her gal pal, Harley Quinn, “We’re going to Riverdale!”
Wait . . . what? Riverdale and Gotham don’t even vaguely exist in the same publishing universe, do they? Poison Ivy makes it all sound so simple, but how the heck is travel between the two franchises even possible without some convoluted high tech device or quantum level event that rips apart the very fabric of the time-space/pop culture continuum?
Ah, don’t worry about it. Abandon your preconceived notions and simply lean in.
Five or ten years ago, before the existence of Riverdale (the critically acclaimed TV series) and Suicide Squad (the 2016 movie that grossed three quarters of a billion dollars for some reason), the very idea of this crossover would have been laughable, and not in a good way. Even if some brave creators had tried to pull it off, it very likely would have been a sickly-sweet, goofy mess, bursting with over the top site gags and corny comedic hijinks. With both franchises having taken a decidedly darker turn, however, and unashamedly plumbing the depths of more mature themes and plot lines, the timing feels perfect. On the surface, it still might not seem like the most natural crossover out there, but in this debut issue, at least, it somehow feels organic and almost inevitable.
To begin with, writers Paul Dini and Marc Andreyko deliver a smart, well crafted script that nicely introduces each character with a few simple lines. (Dini, incidentally, was one of Harley Quinn’s original creators when she first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series in September, 1992.) Consummate capitalist Hiram Lodge (Veronica’s father), for example, makes his true intentions known by extolling the virtues of Lodge University’s many degrees, “Wealth Creation, Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Foreclosure Strategies, and, for the artistically inclined, Urban Gentrification.” Harley Quinn, on the other hand, tries to temper Poison Ivy’s initial enthusiasm to abscond to Riverdale by saying, “Whoa, Red! Usually I’m a big fan of the ‘runnin off like an unhinged maniac’ bit, but do ya think that’s smart?”
These simple lines of dialogue work because the characters play it straight. Both of them sound authentic, and well within the confines of their respective universes, while divulging crucial character traits that drill down their very essence and help set the plot in motion. Meanwhile, the reader is in on the joke, smirking and nodding along. No need to overthink it. Just let go and have fun.
Visually, the aesthetic is definitely rooted in the hipper, edgier style of each franchise’s more recent iterations. Older, classic depictions of the animated Harley Quinn, as well as Betty and Veronica’s more mainstream, digest incarnations, may be two-dimensional, colorful, and cartoony, but these women are very different. For starters, Betty and Veronica certainly don’t look like typical high school girls. They exude a more mature, almost smoldering sensuality that befits not only the “bombshell” style that illustrator Laura Braga is best known for, but the same adult worldliness that the 20-something actresses bring to their Riverdale roles. On one level, we may suspend our disbelief and agree to buy into the conceit that these are typical teenage girls, but clearly we know that they’re not.Continued below
The color palette, too, is deeply rooted in a more contemporary, cinematic look. Despite the A cover’s bold, off-the-charts neon tints, the book’s interior palette is muted, with an overt stylishness and dramatic shading that really makes faces pop. The exterior scenes, especially, exude a distinctly hazy, under lit, almost dreamlike quality that keeps the characters front and center and the backgrounds a mere afterthought, underscoring the notion that this is a time and place outside of the Riverdale/Gotham we think we know.
Ultimately, this book’s titular promise isn’t fulfilled until the very last page, and even then, only barely. Luckily, that doesn’t matter as “Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica” #1 fills its first issue role beautifully and absolutely, introducing this universe’s unique iterations of four iconic characters, setting the plot in motion and creating enough intrigue to guarantee that we’ll be back for more.
Final Verdict: 8.6 – Things are only getting started, but so far this is a match made in crossover heaven.