by Paul Kupperberg, Pat & Tim Kennedy, Jim Amash, Jack Morelli, Glenn Whitmore
For 35 issues, Life With Archie has tackled some serious social, economic, health and political topics. Issue 36, the book that has garnished a lot of publicity (and rightfully so), finally hits the stands today and takes head-on mortality to the the aforementioned topics. Archie Comics is taking a bold risk with the first chapter of Life With Archie’s series finale.
While out for jog on what starts off as a normal present day in Riverdale, Archie begins contemplating his future. There are some tender moments in Archie’s imaginary futures. Readers catch glimpses of what could be that are based on choices that he’s made in the present. Since this book had two storylines, one in which Archie marries Veronica and another in which he married Betty, Archie’s future bride’s face is cleverly hidden off panel in each flash forward. In every contemplation, Archie refers to the woman that has captured his heart and mind as “Her.” By using the pronoun and hiding the face of Archie’s betrothed, it allows for both the Betty and Veronica storylines to merge for the book’s finale. The same devices are used to hide the identity of Reggie’s wife as well, adding to the convergences of the two separate storylines. Kupperberg creates some amusing and clever devices to keep the identity of the love of their lives hidden.
Not only does Archie contemplate the future, the past begins to fill his thoughts as well. As Archie passes by some of Riverdale’s more prominent citizens, he is reminded of the impact these people have made in his life. The flashbacks are genuinely touching, reflecting on key moments spent with Jughead, Reggie, Mr. Weatherbee, as well as Betty and Veronica. Kupperberg’s authentic flashbacks are so convincing and heartfelt that readers may find themselves reflecting on the moments that shaped their lives too. Each scene plays out naturally, without being shoehorned or forced into the story’s pace. Thanks to Kupperberg’s excellent script and pacing, both the flash forwards and flashbacks have a natural flow.
This is a great device for setting up the last half of the book. The final part takes place at Jughead’s Chocklit Shoppes. An after-party for a recent political benefit is being attended by the majority of the book’s cast. The benefit was to aid the victims of a recent Southdale Mall shooting. Senator Kevin Keller, a wounded veteran, openly gay and an advocate for gun control, is the guest of honor. Foreshadowing and build up to the final sequence begins with background hints of the potential danger that lies ahead. Many panels hint to possible shooters and to the peril that Senator Keller faces. Confusion and an attempt on Senator Keller’s life occurs with fatal results. Archie’s retrospectives, his dreams of possible futures and the reminiscing with familiar cast members in Archie’s life make the last few pages heart breaking to even readers only vaguely familiar Archie.
The art style for this issue does not deviate from the clean, simple lines and bright colors that readers have come to expect from all-ages comics, especially given the long publication history of the Archie books. Pat & Tim Kennedy provide subtle changes in the cast’s appearances in various sections of the book. Characteristics and features of our Riverdale residents are given small changes in the flashback and flash forward sequences. Panel placement helps build the suspense during the final chapter of the book. The climactic end sequence is intensified thanks to Glenn Whitmore’s colors, along with the emotional reactions and expressions that the Kennedy’s portray on the page.
Moments of reflection about both the past and futures that might have been offer a touching retrospect to the many issues and good times that the cast of Life With Archie has faced. Now the cast must take on a new challenge in next week’s final issue with the passing of the nexus of the Archie Universe. Life With Archie #36 was a solid issue that brought new readers up to speed without shoehorning past plots or narratives. Even if readers are unfamiliar with the Archie cast, the reflection of a life through good and trying times is something all readers can relate to and enjoy, especially when the story is done as well as it is in this book.