LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36
Written by Paul Kupperberg
Art by Pat Kennedy, Tim Kennedy, Jim Amash, and Glenn Whitmore
Published by Archie Comics
Release Date: July 16, 2014
Archie Andrews has been a staple of American comic books for 73 years — and we’ve experienced life through his eyes more times than we can count. But today. Today, we experience the end of life with Archie, for today is the day Archie Andrews died. We’ll miss you, good buddy.
Two things to make clear upfront. First, Archie Andrews lives on in many monthly issues published with his name, and will for some time to come. It is only in the much-lauded, but alternate universe, title Life with Archie that America’s sweetheart and all around good guy meets his heroic — and surprisingly touching — end.
Secondly, I’ve got something to confess. I’ve never been a fan of Archie Andrews. When I first heard about the events of this issue (and who hasn’t?), my first thought was, why not Life Without Archie then? He’s not the most interesting of the Riverdale gang, and his place in the story, while central obviously, isn’t what makes it the fascinating romp that it is.
Well, Life with Archie #36 changed all that. I was totally, 100% wrong.
To say that the narrative in this issue is something special really sells it short, because the manner in which Kupperberg moves Archie Andrews through his life — past, future, and even more future — defies both crass sentimentality and cliché. There’s a strongly moving progression that we see strictly through Archie’s eyes that at once brings the story solely back to him and has now endeared him to me forever. And all he had to do was die. How’s that for poetry?
Not that the writing here is all about the descent, as Kupperberg employs a number of other very clever moves to address both worlds (Archie Marries Betty and Archie Marries Veronica) in a single, linear tale. As Archie talks about his one true love, it’s easy to put whichever woman you believe that to be into place in your mind, and the other is not slighted for the effort at all. In some sense, it could be just as easy to imagine that both women were his one true love, a fitting tribute to what is clearly the longest lasting love triangle of the medium.
The Kennedys bring us through era after era of Archie’s life, from childhood to parenthood, with fun and recognizable takes on every one involved. But the real mastery is in the final scenes leading into Archie’s passing, a progression of images that could just as well be a storyboard for the saddest film ending you’d ever seen — but one that made you proud to know the main character, even for a little while, just the same.
The plot, at that point, barely even matters, as the assailant is revealed and Kevin Keller is saved from the gunman’s bullet. What matters is Archie’s instinct, his innate goodness that has never strayed over the course of seven decades. Riverdale has seen some pretty astounding changes these past few years, but it’s a comfort to know one very important thing hasn’t. People are still good in their hearts. Heroes exist without masks and costumes.
And Archie Andrews is among the best of all of them. Rest in Peace, Archie. I’m glad we got to have this time together, finally.
The Verdict: 10/10
To witness a bit of this very issue, check out our preview at Comicosity!