Archie Andrews is dead! Okay a version of Archie Andrews is dead. Much like last week Steve and Dustin have returned to review the final issue of Life With Archie, a series that explored two timelines; one in which Archie married Betty and one in which Archie married Veronica. First here's a blurb about the issue from Archie Comics:
It’s been one year since the death of Archie that took place in Life With Archie #36 shook Riverdale to its very core. The residents of the most welcoming town in America, where the chocolate malts are always delicious and the neighbors are always smiling, gather together one last time for the closing ceremony of this groundbreaking series and a celebration of a Life with Archie.
After the thrill ride of last week's Life of Archie #36, which served as the first half of the "Death of Archie" storyline, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this issue. The concept of flashing forward a year later intrigued me though because rather than dealing with the undeniable grief of the characters we see them after life has moved on. In a lot of ways this issue echoes the last issue, but instead of Archie walking us down memory lane (literally and metaphorically) we follow Kevin Keller. It's appropriate as Kevin is alive because Archie is dead. There's a dedication of sorts to Archie happening and so Kevin is on a journey to talk to Archie's friends about him and in a way unlock the reason why he jumped in front of the bullet for him. The answer is of course that Archie would have jumped in front of the bullet for anyone, because that's his character.
The artwork for the issue serves the variety of emotions and I did find myself choked up at the end during the speech and the gang hanging out their old stomping ground. Again the different stages of Archie's life were captured wonderfully.
The only part I didn't care for was the pseudo Archie, Betty and Veronica. They made several appearances and their entire point was to show that the cycle would continue for a new generation. I get that, but they felt out-of-place and seeing basically what's a different design for these iconic characters while celebrating the life of the namesake... was souring. Again I get the point, but it didn't quite pan out the way they intended, at least not for me. I still really want to read the rest of this series because it still comes across as a storyline in comics that will be talked about long after its departed, much like Archie was in this story.
Okay, first thing? I love Alex Ross, but his variant for this issue is the most terrifying comic book cover I think I’ve ever seen. What is going on with Betty and Veronica’s smiles? It looks like they were chained up with facial restraints in some kind of forced propaganda viewing. Archie, meanwhile, has a chillingly joyless madness about his eyes and menacing grin, and Jugghead looks like their serene overlord. I’d take a shower to wash off the creepy, but I’m too afraid those faces will be staring at me when I open the curtain. Brrrr.
Anyway, if you read mine and Dustin’s review last week or listened to the podcast, you’ll have experienced our significant man gush (gross) over how good Life with Archie #36 was. Unfortunately, what made that issue so great - shockingly evocative character pathos, fantastic imagery, great nostalgic storytelling - was completely lost here, though it did retain its useful sense of innocence.
As such, however, this just felt like any other collection of Archie comics, with stories about the gang up to hijinks mostly for the greater good, and Archie at the center of each one. It toes the line of this universe and for what Archie has always been, it’s fine, but it’s still a letdown from the highs of last issue.
The art is the same clean, cartoonish and familiar feel we’ve all come to expect with these books, but did anyone else find it weird how chipper and smiley Betty and Veronica were when they showed up to the Archie Andrews memorial? I mean, one of them (really both) is supposed to be his wife. I know it’s been a year, but rein in the teeth and put away the phones, ladies!
The best part of this book was its last three pages, which see the old gang back at Jugghead’s and meeting the next generation of kids. This was a sweet passing of the torch ... on the surface. See, I think these young lookalikes are actually products of a Riverdale clone farm, activated when one of the old models dies, and that’s how the town has stayed so innocent year by year. Wow, that kind of adds new gravity to that Ross cover, doesn’t it? Shit. There goes sleep forever.
It was clever of Archie Comics to have an aftermath issue to bring readers back to the shops for another week, but Life with Archie #37 simple did not have the same impact and really could have been summed up in a short mini at the end of the previous issue.
Writer: Paul Kupperberg Artists: Fernando Ruiz, Pat Kennedy, Tim Kennedy Publisher: Archie Comics Price: $4.99 Release Date: 7/23/14 Format: Print/Digital