Friday, July 18, 2014

LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36: The Death of Archie

Have you read LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36 yet? This is the infamous "Death of Archie" story that has gotten everyone so upset -- most of whom haven't picked up an Archie Comics comic book in years, much less the soon-to-be canceled LIFE WITH ARCHIE series.

I want to make a quick note before getting too far into this review:

This blog entry contains spoilers. If you don't want to know what happens in LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36, then stop reading now. You have been warned.

Back to the show...

It's seems silly at this point to spell out, but it is also important to clarify what LIFE WITH ARCHIE is about. LIFE WITH ARCHIE is a magazine-style comic book featuring two parallel worlds. In one world, an adult Archie Andrews married Veronica Lodge. In the other world, he married Betty Cooper. Both worlds are somewhat similar, but also very different. This comic book has been written much like a serialized soap opera and has tackled everything from breast cancer to getting pregnant to gay weddings to marital separation.

LIFE WITH ARCHIE was also the series that got me back into reading Archie Comics comic books again. I started midway through the first year of the series. I hadn't picked up an Archie Comics digest in years, but had heard about this magazine featuring older versions of the classic characters. Reggie was on trial for something he didn't do. Chuck & Nancy were this bickering couple who were trying to get their comic strip published professionally. Jughead was dating Midge. Moose was the newly-elected mayor of Riverdale. Miss Grundy had just died from some disease.

And then there was Archie Andrews and his two marriages. Mr. Lodge was such a jerk back then. In the one world, he was trying to control Archie & Veronica's marriage. In the other, he was trying to destroy Archie & Betty's collective life for upsetting Veronica.

I was hooked. I had never imagined an Archie Comics comic book like this before. Gradually, I expanded my reading choices to include all of Archie Comics' main titles. But LIFE WITH ARCHIE held a special spot in my heart.

And now it is one issue away from ending.

There was so much hype about this particular issue. It was too political. It was sexualizing children. It was too violent. It was attention-seeking. But then you pick up the title and find that it's nothing at all like that.

I mean, it is violent at the end. Our last moments sometimes are.

It is fitting that this issue began with Archie jogging on Memory Lane. Memory Lane is where the seed for Archie's two weddings began. It is fitting the the series ends on Memory Lane.

The meat of this story was very simple. And very touching. Archie had a chance encounter with a grumpy old man, which got him thinking about his childhood and his childhood love. It featured daydreams about his earliest adventures and about how he wants his life to unfold. It's a story of self-reflection and affirmation that the choices Archie made leading to this point were good choices.

And then the party begins. Everyone is gathering at Jughead's diner to raise money for the victims of a recent mass-shooting. Senator-elect Kevin Keller plans to attend the event. Unfortunately, the mass-shooter plans to be at the event and he has easy access to Sen. Keller. It is Wendell -- Jughead's new busboy. You remember him, don't you? He's the guy who has been running from cameras and stalking Clay. Turns out he didn't vote for Kevin Keller. Anyway, he's the guy who shot Archie.

And for the jerks on Facebook who have been piling on Kevin Keller for not defending himself. The good Senator was protecting his husband and trying to shield Veronica and Betty.

The story ends with Archie dying on the floor of one of his childhood haunts, surrounded by mourning family and friends. Nobody wants to die, but there are worse ways to go.

It was unclear to me where exactly this took place. There are elements of both worlds in this story. I thought at first that this was the "Archie Marries Betty" world. In fact, I could have sworn that Betty was wearing a ring earlier in the story, but I was wrong. It seems that he died the same way in both worlds.

I strongly recommend this moving story. It is a stark reminder of how precious love is and how quickly life can change. "Life With Archie" was written by Paul Kupperberg, Penciled by Pat & Tim Kennedy, and Inked by Jim Amash.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this review. It was so eloquently written and kind of beautiful. I can't wait to get my hands on this issue - I'm going to cry like a baby, lol

Jon said...


Anthony said...

The story was intentionally written to merge both worlds' storylines together. Thus, the issue's vague references to "his better half" (and not indicating whether Moose is mayor or just a janitor, etc.).

Anonymous said...

Awesome review, Jon! I enjoyed it almost as much as the book itself. I loved LWA from start to finish. I don't really like Archie dying but 36 was one of the best issues of the series and a great way to end the story. I almost cried at that last panel and also during some of Archie's reflecting during his jog. I kind of wish Fernando had done the art on this issue, but that's a minor gripe. The story was so good that the slightly subpar art didn't kill it. I'm really looking forward to 37 and before I read 36 I actually thought 37 would be more compelling, but it will have to be amazing to top this one.

Jon said...

Anthony: Moose's blind girlfriend was at the party, IIRC, which implies that this was Mayor Moose. But then Jellybean was there and the Chowhouse II security guard. So lots of mixed elements.

Jon said...

Thanks for gage kind words, Spaz!

I've grown to like the Kennedys' artwork over the last year. But Ruiz will be doing the artwork next issue, so that should be good too.