Graphic Novel Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Comic Book Critic
After over 70 years of non-stop adventures, good deeds and other life events in the small idyllic town of Riverdale, it goes without saying that we’d probably seen every good side of young red haired Archie Andrews as he selflessly helps his friends, family and town in any way possible while remaining the focal point of one of comics most famous love triangles.
With the release of this new trade paperback, we learn just how far Archie would go to save the life of his fellow man, in this case preventing an assassination to save the life of a friend who is already the target of antagonism.
Designed to examine and merge two different story lines from Life with Archie in which he’d made a life with Betty AND Veronica (though in parallel realities), The Death of Archie focuses on the events leading up to a fundraiser for Senate candidate Kevin Kellar, Archie’s gay friend who is looking to get elected in order to raise awareness of violence against homosexuals, among other campaign goals.
Sadly, not everyone shares in the sentiment, and so the threat level goes up, forcing the Secret Service to protect Kevin against any radicals hoping to send a message in front of the media.
When Jughead (who now runs the Malt Shoppe) hosts the fundraiser and invites all of his friends and neighbors to help support their Senatorial candidate, they don’t realize that the danger might rest within the growing crowd, in a room that’s getting more difficult to manage.
As is evident with the title of this review, Archie discovers the odd element out, but not before it’s too late to properly warn Kevin of his potential assailant, and thus decides to make the ultimate sacrifice, offering himself as a target to save a life.
It’d be incredibly easy to call this story manipulative, gratuitous or even opportunistic in its use of selfless sacrifice in the face of violence and homophobia, save for the fact that it’s completely in character with Archie Andrews’ personality makeup.
Having been a champion for equality, fairness, justice and decency in his small town (one in which people like to live out the rest of their lives, so we’re told), it’s fair to assume Archie would literally take a bullet, help a friend out, speak out against injustice and stand up for what he believed in. The concept might be considered unrealistic in today’s world, but Archie Comics was never really about mirroring reality but rather to act as a template for the ideals we should strive for, burger gluttony being an exception.
The pivotal event happens fairly early in the story, with the remainder of the book resorting to various flashbacks from past issues from years ago, with each major resident recalling their fondness for Archie and how he changed their lives for the better. A harmless and often bittersweet narrative device, but one which may very well tug at your heartstrings.
So, is Archie really dead? Well, this is a comic book, and so this plot can be explained away as one possible outcome of Archie’s life. Besides, if comics have taught us anything, is that no one is every truly dead. Look at Marvel Comics and how they’ve killed off Wolverine, Professor X, Spider-Man or Johnny Storm, only to bring them back through convoluted plot developments. Even Superman managed to pull it off. Never say never.
The Death of Archie could very well be used as a tool for parents to educate their children about the importance of selflessness, personal beliefs and altruism. It can also prepare young readers for the reality of death, but that of course will be a call to be made by each parent when grabbing a copy of this powerful story.
3.5 out of 5
Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.