Veronica #207 (aka Kevin Keller #1)
Title: Meet Kevin Keller!
Writer: Dan Parent
Pencils: Dan Parent
Inks: Rich Koslowski
Colorist: Digikore Studios
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Cover Artist: Dan Parent
Editor: Victor Gorelick
Publisher: Archie Comics
Archie Comics made a big deal out of giving Kevin Keller his own “miniseries,” but that’s not technically the case. Rather, they’re giving him the spotlight for four issues of Veronica and doubling up the numbers. (Officially, this is Veronica #207, but it’s also labeled as Kevin Keller #1.) In this issue, two old friends of Kevin’s from his younger days come to Riverdale for a visit with the traveling army brat, just in time to help everyone get ready for the big Fourth of July parade and tell everybody how awesome Kevin is.
Honestly, that’s what happens in this book, and in so doing, it commits not one, but two cardinal sins. First, and most obvious, there’s no real story here. It’s basically just Kevin’s friends telling stories about him. There’s no conflict or struggle, save for a quick gag about Kevin and Jughead in a pie-eating contest and a short scene in which Kevin is worried how his father will react when he comes out to him. All of this could easily be fodder for good stories, but what little tension the writer manages to create always evaporates immediately.
This gets us to the second problem: Kevin himself. For a character that brought Archie Comics a wealth of media attention, he is mind-numbingly boring. Honestly, the stories his friends tell us amount to the following:
- When he was a kid, Kevin suffered from bad teeth and acne, problems that disappeared when he entered high school. Despite his newfound hunkiness, he didn’t ditch his old friends.
- He took a friend to a junior high dance to protect her from a jerk that tried to hurt her feelings.
- His parents love him, and always have, and always will.
- He’s going to join the military, and everybody is proud of that.
And it all adds up to a great big ball of, “so what?” I get what Dan Parent is trying to do with this character: he wants to make him a well-rounded character that escapes all of the traditional gay clichés and stereotypes. And that’s good. That’s even admirable. But he’s simply gone too far in the other direction. Kevin, as presented in this issue, is a character utterly without fault, and I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, male, female, black, white, or a cocker spaniel, it’s dull to read about somebody who’s perfect. Even in the squeaky-clean world of Riverdale, most of our characters have faults: Archie is a chronic screw-up and indecisive, Veronica is spoiled, Betty is a bit of a pushover, Jughead is a glutton, Reggie is a jerk… I could keep going here for a long time, because over the decades these characters have been introduced, the writers have found niches for them that include character faults that provide easy avenues for storytelling. Kevin has no such faults, resulting in a story bereft of conflict, which is a story that any first-year creative writing student will tell you isn’t actually a story.
I’m always in favor of expanding the cast of characters in Archie’s universe, and I think there’s a place for Kevin Keller, but the writers are going to have to work a lot harder to make him feel like a character instead of just a bone to throw to a certain portion of the audience.