It might be the final issue of a decades-long run, but Dan Parent and Rich Koslowski's cover illustration for "Archie" #666 doesn't say goodbye to readers, nor even ta ta for now. Instead, it waves a friendly hello to them, welcoming them into the familiar world of Archie Andrews for one last walkthrough before this world gives way to a revised and less familiar one, when comics' longest continuously running American title relaunches next month. Inker Rich Koslowski provides the characteristically appropriate finishes for Parent and a trio of other pencillers well known to Archie fans, while Tom DeFalco's story passively acknowledges the significance of this issue while providing the same kind of enjoyment and laughs generally seen in any other.
DeFalco weaves in a retrospection of sorts, as many of Archie's friends and foils wax nostalgic over their bittersweet interactions with Riverdale's most famous teen; even the ever-weary Mr. Lodge digs up some nice recollections, albeit ones peppered with him finding himself the victim of Archie's shenanigans, as usual. All of the cast's various reminiscing comes with a nudge and a wink, sharing tales of Archie's past mishaps but doing so good-naturedly while discussing their bumbling but beloved friend. All of these trips, slips and spills are comically captured not only by Parent, but also fellow pencillers Fernando Ruiz, Tim Kennedy and Pat Kennedy. Koslowski's consistent inks not only ensure the traditional Archie style is faithfully presented one final time, but that the transition between each artist's chapter is seamless. Parent gets the funniest slapstick moment, though, in the form of the issue's splash page, where Mr. Weatherbee's deliberately prophetic turn-of-phrase announces the title's pending finish.
Through Mr. Weatherbee, in fact, DeFalco provides some significance to this comic's issue number and no, it's not rooted in Satanism, although the story's threadbare reason makes it come across as a deliberate distraction from that obvious but baseless notion. Archie's latest school misdeed results in, yes, his 666th detention, meaning that the poor guy has probably sat in detention nearly every day of his high school career if one tries to take the math seriously. The contrivance regarding the number is ultimately meaningless to the story, though; what's more important is that this detention serves as the catalyst in DeFalco's story, spurring Archie's friends, family and foes to rally around him.
DeFalco divides the story into four five-page, bite-size chapters, all with the same creative team save for the pencillers, that will keep the story moving for kids and adults alike, with the chapter breaks providing quick and natural transitions between scenes. There are a couple of blatant and contrived what-if style references to the ongoing "Afterlife With Archie" and now-concluded "Life With Archie." The publisher misses an opportunity to outwardly promote these titles in the form of a simple footnote, which would have benefitted new or returning readers dropping by who are unfamiliar with these newer titles. As executed, the in-joke comes across as nothing more than that at best but could just as easily be missed entirely.
The climax of the story is a slightly manufactured but still fun and star-studded gathering of Archie's supporting cast and, once resolved, DeFalco caps things off with everyone reverting to form, especially Archie himself, who finds himself once again caught in the crossfire of Betty and Veronica's wrath. It's a smart conclusion and denouement by DeFalco, who realizes this isn't really an ending at all, as these characters aren't going away. There's almost a sense of sadness that this will be the final traditional issue of this flagship title and, as a whole, the issue ironically makes a lighthearted and enjoyable case for not revamping the franchise. "Archie" #666 isn't a farewell at all, but rather a tribute to over seventy years' worth of hijinks and tomfoolery, and it's a mainstay that will be missed.