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Archie Comics’ Big Gay Kiss

14 Aug

KellerKissArchie Comics’ first gay character continues to blaze trails for equality. Since his introduction three years ago, Kevin Keller has become one of the publisher’s most popular characters. He received his own title only months after his introduction and his appearances have been instrumental in the updating of life in idyllic Riverdale. Kevin Keller #10 continues this trend with a story that mixes Archie-style hijinks with solid social commentary.

Kevin recently began dating Devon, a young man who ran away from home when his father reacted badly to discovering he was gay. Devon is staying with Kevin’s pal (and frequent Archie love interest) Veronica Lodge. After events of the past couple of issues, Devon decides to return home to reconcile. After a chat at Pop’s diner, he and Kevin exchange a quick kiss.

A woman in the diner responds badly, accusing the couple of trying to corrupt her young daughter. Veronica rushes to their defense, and Pop himself bans the woman from the diner for her bigotry and disruption. Things get wacky (this is a comic book, after all) when Veronica accidentally posts the kiss to YouTube. The story goes viral, threatening to disrupt Devon’s plans and creating a media frenzy.

The blend of social justice and comic energy is perfect. Kevin just wants to be a normal teenager, a theme that helps make his book so charming and successful. Accepting the responsibility thrust on him by circumstance, he agrees to appear on Ellen to discuss the hyperbolic response to a simple kiss.

The issue also takes a poke at the infamous group One Million Moms, the hyperbolically named group that has mounted failed boycotts and protests of many representations of LGBT people. The group went after Archie Comics last year when the series Life With Archie, set in the future, featured Kevin’s wedding to his partner Clay. Using Ellen as the group’s clever foil, the story dismantles their homophobia and hypocrisy nicely while staying true to the characters and overall story.

The pacing is excellent and the characters are strong and believable. Writer and artist Dan Parent manages to convey important messages without being overly preachy. Besides Pop’s stand for equality, Riverdale High Mr. Wetherbee makes a bold statement about treating everyone fairly. Archie and his current African-American girlfriend reflect that their kiss at Pop’s would have created a similar stir not too long ago.

It’s an Archie Comic, so everything works out pretty well in the end. The story rings very true and the characters are strong. Devon’s interaction with his father is realistic but hopeful. Kevin and Devon continue to grow as characters and as a couple. Deftly handled and cleverly written, Kevin Keller #10 gets a full five stars for telling an important story and remaining true to the spirit of fun that readers expect from Archie.

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