ON April 9, Archie Comics revealed that Archie Andrews was going to die. As it turned out, thankfully, he wasn’t going to die forever but only in Life With Archie — just one of the comic book series published by the company and which had been introduced in 2010.
Life with Archie comprises 37 comic books (regular Archie comics continue to be printed as well as several other series including Afterlife with Archie). Archie dies in the second-last issue of Life With Archie (number 36) while saving his friend Kevin Keller who is running for Senator. The last issue, number 37, is set a year after his death.
These issues were released in the third and fourth weeks of July and there are no parallel universes here, unlike in the other issues (one to 35) of this series. Who Archie marries is left to the reader’s imagination in these last two issues, which seems a bit of a cop-out.
In all the other issues of Life with Archie, Archie’s two parallel lives (as separate sections) are depicted after he graduates from High School. The first of these sections is ‘Archie Marries Veronica’ and the second is ‘Archie Marries Betty’. In the former, Archie and Veronica begin working at Lodge Industries, and later on, Archie heads a record company. Reggie and Betty date in this ‘universe’.
In ‘Archie Marries Betty,’ Archie and Betty, after spending some time in New York City, eventually move back to Riverdale and become teachers at their alma mater, Riverdale High, where their marriage suffers due to a host of reasons, while Reggie and Veronica are linked romantically.
And what of Jughead? Well, in ‘Archie Marries Veronica,’ Jughead marries Ethel — and in the latter, Midge (surprise, surprise!). Several other characters, including Kevin Keller and Mr Weatherbee, have a presence in the series as well, although their fates vary. The Chocklit Shoppe, which is now run by Jughead, is also a constant in both universes. Number 36 of Life with Archie begins with shots of Little Archie and his two favourite girls — Betty and Veronica — at the Chocklit Shoppe.
“It all started with the touch of her hand,” recounts Archie, “I can’t tell you exactly what I thought I knew at the time… but whatever it was, I was hooked… My life became about making her happy.”
And so begins the comic book on a nostalgic note, setting the tone for the rest of it as Archie literally takes a jog down Memory Lane, and then goes on to dream of a future in which he has a son and daughter.
We are never shown the face of the mother of these children, even as Archie says: “I guess there’s one constant, even in my dreams — her. And the three of us, me, her and Riverdale… something tells me we’re in this together… forever.”
The comic book shuttles between the past and the present, and it does so without being too soppy. For those readers who have been part of Archie’s life for as long as they can remember, it is a befitting goodbye to Riverdale and the characters they have loved over the decades. The tone of this comic (compared to ones we have read over the years or even the preceding ones in the series) is somewhat philosophical and poignant. And although it has been revealed that Archie dies, by the time one reaches the end, you cannot help but hope that there will be a twist that will prevent his death. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as is reaffirmed in comic number 37, which is set a year after his death.
Sadly, this issue is somewhat of a letdown. Like its predecessor, it primarily relies on flashbacks. Kevin is now a senator, and he asks several characters including Mr Weatherbee, Mr Lodge, Jughead, Reggie, Betty and Veronica to share their memories of Archie, since he will be giving a speech to mark his first death anniversary. What is disappointing is that most of these memories aim at portraying Archie as a hero.
For instance, Mr Weatherbee remembers him falling asleep during his classes because, as it turns out, Archie was helping a senior citizen repair his house, while Betty and Veronica recount that he didn’t take either of them to the dance and chose to take Ethel because no one asked her.
And while these memories do show Archie’s “heroic” side, one wishes that a few of them brought to life the Archie that we all remember — the clumsy teenager who was always in trouble and landed up in detention; whose main preoccupation was raising funds so he could date Veronica and Betty (he could never decide whom he loved more); and who was the butt of many of Reggie Mantle’s jokes. Because it was these qualities that made legions of teenagers fall in love with him — and Riverdale. And let’s face it, Archie was never too bright or introspective — his charms lay in his wayward ways and frivolous preoccupations, which made him so relatable.
However, despite these attempts at making Archie a hero, this comic, like the remaining ones in the series, is definitely a must-read for all Archie fans; it provides closure and marks the end of an era of sorts for many Archie fans.
But while there is solace to be found in the Afterword by Victor Gorelick, Co-President / Editor-in-Chief of Archie Comics who said, “Yes, in Life with Archie, Archie Andrews dies. It’s a sad ending, but … Archie will live on in our comics, digests, graphic novels, digitally and in the not too distant future, TV and the movies. So wipe away your tears, Archie’s still here and will be for years to come,” one cannot help but wish things hadn’t changed so much, that Archie remained just the way we remembered him, and that we still lived in the carefree times that were evoked in the Archie comics we once read as teenagers.
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