Welcome to our first dual review that we’ve done in a while! Today Dustin and Steve are taking a look at Life With Archie #36 also known as the beginning of the “Death of Archie” story arc. That’s right they’re killing Archie… kind of. Here’s a blurb about the issue from Archie Comics: History is in the making in this epic finale to the acclaimed series LIFE WITH ARCHIE, as America’s most beloved character makes the ultimate sacrifice to save a friend. The unthinkable happens: Archie Andrews dies! Fans will experience an epic tale of Archie’s future sure to make headlines, generate discussion and stand as one of the most-talked about Archie stories of all time. Do not miss this game-changing tale of love, friendship and true heroism.
First off let’s start with the recap for the series. Holy mackerel is it extensive! At first I was intimidated, but then I couldn’t get enough of just reading the recap. I felt like I had missed out on one of the most important and adventurous storylines to be done with a golden age character. Seriously Marvel and DC can’t hold a torch to what the creative team has done with this series.
The story itself is one of the best I’ve read all year. I am not kidding.
The thing about Archie is that he’s largely considered a joke. Thanks in part to Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy and numerous jokes over the years, alots of comic fans default setting for the series is that it’s a bad kid’s book. To an extent the regular Archie Series is pretty kiddish, but then it’s also one of the most progressive series in all of comics. It has more diversity in a single issue than other companies have in their entire publishing schedule. Let me tell you, if your default setting is “Archie sucks” then you need to stow that shit at the door and give this and the other Archie titles an honest read.
The entire issue teases which girl Archie is married to in this storyline and it never reveals it, instead much like it’s always been neither Beatty nor Veronica are chosen. Every time writer Paul Kupperberg screws with the reader it’s brilliant. It only made me want an answer more, but also to be screwed with more.
What’s even more impressive is that after the recap they tell you exactly what’s going to happen in this issue. The entire thing is recapped in a paragraph, but you know what? The journey is so incredible that you’ll never notice. I couldn’t believe how fantastic this issue was and how it really did recap Archie’s character and the world of Riverdale. In a strange way it managed to capture everything that’s important about Archie and the series contribution to comics as well.
Buy this issue. I kid you not, it’s the best thing released this week and I read a ton of great stuff.
My mom would be overjoyed to learn that I’m about to review an Archie comic. She would then be immediately disappointed to discover that the only reason I am doing so is because in this issue, Archie eats it (which totally sounds like an indie rock band, by the way).
Yes, I went into this book knowing full well that Archie dies, but otherwise, I had no idea what to expect before cracking it open. As intriguingly “Sliding Doors” as this book’s take on the Archie universe has apparently been, it’s still Archie and Betty and Veronica, and all those other goofy scamps I outgrew years ago.
From what is explained in the comprehensive two-page recap, however, Life with Archie has covered some hard-hitting subjects, like political corruption, terminal illness, violent crime, all forms of prejudice and now, even death. Issue #36 consolidates all of these factors, as well as its dual-universe “what-if” scenario, while sidestepping throughout the entire issue whether Archie has finally ended up with either Betty or Veronica. It’s a clever play, not because it flirts with revelation, but because it quickly becomes apparent that who he married is irrelevant.
In fact - and this is not taking anything away from its progressive stance on story selection - but this issue makes the entirety of Life with Archie suddenly moot. What remains, then, is everything Archie and his gang have stood for throughout the years. This is best exemplified in an early and telling conversation Archie has with a seemingly grumpy Mr. Pavia, the point of which is this: Riverdale is timeless. Just like the Archie book itself, it may always adapt, but it was never meant to change. To do so in many ways would mean its death.
This whole issue was a waltz through nostalgia and aspirational futures, with Archie waxing philosophical (in his own unpretentiously effusive whitebread way) about how lucky his life has and could have been, and how blessed he is to have led it. It’s a transparent setup for a fall, but you know what? It’s also sweet, and not in the cartoonish way I was expecting. This was simple and sometimes silly, sure, but I swear to Grodd, it was also genuinely touching.
But don’t come here looking for a murder mystery (it’s pretty clear who the perpetrator is at the outset), and yes, go ahead and balk at how this was a classic Archie Comics gimmick to put that lovable ginger back in the spotlight on a slow news day. None of that should be a surprise. What may be, however, is how well Kupperberg uses that premise to guide this PR vehicle through a tight history and into some very real feels, all while using a fun but definitely more mature tone.
Meanwhile, the Kennedies and Amash on art do a great job of maintaining that classic Archie, uncomplicated visual look, but they also deliver some downright powerful images in their own right; the repetition of that spilt shake with three lifeless straws being perhaps the most arresting. I love how they start this book by beautifully foreshadowing his murder, which is mirrored again in an absolutely incredible and evocative splash at the end. I honestly can’t remember such a powerful death scene in comics.
Thanks to the introduction of a more diverse character set and a face-front approach to social issues, the Archie books have rightfully been championed for being progressive. What Life with Archie #36 illustrates to me, however, is that its inherent innocence - which continues to endear it to people like my mom today - is just as important to the brand. When the two coexist on the same page, that dichotomy can deliver a true and lasting shot to the gut. Full marks, Archie. Well played.
Writer: Paul Kupperberg Artist: Pat & Tim Kennedy Publisher: Archie Comics Price: $4.99 Release Date: 7/16/14 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital