Death in comic books is nothing new, with many characters dying and resurrecting multiple times. It’s something we as comic readers have come to live with (most of us anyway). One classic comic character who hasn’t died is Archie, the lovable redhead from Riverdale. Seems his time has come with this week’s Life With Archie #36. Major Spoilers has your review! (Please no whining about death in comics)
LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36
Writer: Paul Kupperberg
Artist: Pat & Tim Kennedy
Inker: Jim Amash
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Editor: Victor Gorelick
Publisher: Archie Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Previously in Life With Archie: There are two futures for Archie: one where he marries Betty, the other Veronica. Both universes have similarities but also major differences. Jughead runs the Chocklit Shoppe, Archie has a job, etc. There’s also some weird junk with merging of alternate timelines and time travel. You know, comic book stuff.
WHO KNEW ARCHIE WAS SO ADULT?
This is the first Archie comic book I’ve ever read, unless you count Afterlife With Archie, which I don’t. My Archie knowledge is basic at best and I never saw the appeal. To my surprise, there was a, not one, but two page recap to help new readers. Even with the thorough backstory it’s extremely confusing. What I found surprising was how many adult themes and situations had occurred. Not only the introduction of Kevin Keller, a gay character, but death, cancer, divorce, time travel and even murder. Never would I have thought such things happened in Archie, but apparently they do. I was worried having not read any of the past story would make the issue confusing but it doesn’t and that’s both a good and bad thing.
The whole issue is basically a celebration of Archie’s life and what a great person he is. As Archie runs through Riverdale, he reminisces about the past, thinks about his possible future(s) and interacts with the supporting cast. It’s a nice story but makes the recap pages completely unnecessary. Newbies can easily jump in but I find it hard to believe that regular readers will want a story telling them why Archie is so great. I was a little let down that there didn’t seem to be much of a connection to past stories as those sounded like some cool reads. Throughout, Archie talks of his one true love, and it is teased as to whom he married: Betty or Veronica. Her face is always conveniently covered by a word balloon and no one says her by name. It’s a big build and certainly a question many will want answered: Who did he choose? (More on that in a bit)
This all leads to the big moment, the reason most people will buy this book. Everyone has gathered at the Chocklit Shoppe for Kevin Keller’s fundraiser. Kevin has been elected senator and there is concern for his safety because someone has targeted homosexuals in a shooting and there is concern Kevin is next. Of course, the shooter comes to the fundraiser but confusion happens and Kevin’s bodyguards go after the wrong person. Archie pushes Clay, Kevin’s partner, out of the way and takes a bullet to the gut. In his last moments his tells his wife he’s always loved her. So, who did he choose? You don’t find out. That’s right, the answer they’ve teased the whole issue is never given. Instead we get a panel with both Betty and Veronica crying as Archie speaks his last words. It feels like a cheat. As if they didn’t have the guts to make a decision, much like Archie himself. I understand the point is most likely he loved both but why make such a big deal hiding his love’s identity. Paul Kupperberg does a great job blending Archie’s past and future moments but none of it made me care when he died. Plus, the way Archie will die is blatantly obvious. The reveal of the killer’s identity was a nice swerve that I didn’t expect and was set up well. Archie fans may love this issue but nothing about it made me want to read more Archie comics. The cover price is $4.99 too, making it hard to justify a purchase anyway.
MOM, WHY’S KEVIN SO DIFFERENT?
Pat & Tim Kennedy’s artwork certainly looks like I’d imagine an Archie book to look. Characters are instantly recognizable and the Archie feel is there from page one. Kevin Keller and Clay on the other hand are extremely different from the rest of the Riverdale gang and it’s not because of their sexual preference. Their designs contrast with the other’s appearances that I thought some pages were from a different artist. It’s obvious and became quite distracting. I enjoyed the more subtle elements to Pat & Tim Kennedy’s work. The man who is mistaken as the shooter is present in the background of many panels, misdirecting the reader well. The opening and closing shots of the milkshakes are powerful images and the spilt shake on the last page was enough to even move a grouch like me. Everything was much what I’d expect from an Archie book but nothing spectacular.
BOTTOM LINE: DIE HARD ARCHIE FANS ONLY
I’m most certainly not the target audience for Life With Archie #36. Reading an overall look at Archie’s past and understanding why Archie’s the purest character didn’t interest me. The book is extremely new reader friendly but I’d much rather have read stories like the ones in the recap. The ending isn’t much of a shock and I have no desire to go and read any more Archie books. The art is exactly what I expected and aside from some subtleties, nothing great. Longtime Archie fans will most likely love this because of its focus on Archie and the gang’s history. Those just picking it up to see Archie die, which is unfortunately probably the majority, will end up disappointed. Plus, Betty or Veronica? Choose Archie damn you, choose!!