The Death of Archie: A Life Celebrated Review
At this point comic readers have been sort of conditioned towards being apathetic about character deaths. So many superheroes (Superman, Captain America, Batman, etc.) have died and somehow returned that these deaths have lost all dramatic impact. But the killing of beloved comic character Archie Andrews in The Death of Archie: A Life Celebrated has a feeling of finality to it. Archie is no superhero, he’s just a regular guy. Also, there is more than one continuity, or “universe” to Archie; Life With Archie is just one of them. In one universe Archie marries Veronica, and in another he marries Betty. If you’re like me and have only read the occasional Archie book, this trade paperback helpfully catches readers up on the complicated history leading up to this climactic event.
As someone who has viewed Archie as an old-school, 1950s-style comic book, it was quite surprising to me to see how modern the book has become. While the dialogue style and art style remains pretty much how I remember it, the book deals with some controversial current events and emotional subjects. Throughout the first pages of the book Archie strolls through town, remembering his childhood and saying hello to the (mostly) friendly people of Riverdale. The events in The Death of Archie: A Life Celebrated apparently take place in both the “Archie Marries Betty” and “Archie Marries Veronica” universes, and so it’s kept rather frustratingly ambiguous as to who he ended up marrying here. In an imagined future, all of Archie’s kids have red hair, instead of Veronica’s black or Betty’s blonde, and though Archie’s future wife has dialogue, her head is never shown.
The second half of this book is a “One Year Later” story, where Kevin Keller (the man that Archie saved by taking a bullet for him) goes around Riverdale talking to residents about their best memories of Archie. Kevin makes a speech at a ceremony dedicating Riverdale High as Archie Andrews High School.
Supplemental materials include a foreword, a cover gallery, “A Look Behind The Scenes”, and a history of the character. “A Look Behind The Scenes” is interesting in that it shows changes made to some of the artwork before it was finalized for print, along with explanations of why the art was revised. The multiple pages of history on Archie holds some interesting trivia; did you know that the Punisher once met up with Archie in a one-shot crossover comic? Or that that 70’s song “Sugar, Sugar” came from an Archie cartoon? News to me.