Death of Archie brings life to series finale

[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

One has to assume the death of Archie was in the back of the publisher’s mind when it first conceived the Life with Archie relaunch (a series of the same name ran from 1958 to 1991). Like many people after the initial novelty of adult Archie getting married, I lost interest in the series. But reading Life with Archie #36 made me realize I likely missed out on some interesting storytelling.

Charlie Brown will never die, Dennis the Menace will never be old, Nancy and Sluggo will always remain kids. But I find something reassuring in the fact that fictional Archie Andrews dies and the reader knows there is finality to this death (rarely a certainty in superhero comics).

This past week, Marvel had some rather high profile media appearances with changes for Thor and Captain America. Back in 2009, had Archie tried to do something newsworthy, Marvel and DC could have had much smaller style announcements that would have buried Archie’s chances of making a blip for more than 10 seconds in the comic news cycle. Yet, this week, despite Marvel’s double shot of high profile news, Archie held its own and was able to garner mainstream press coverage for the main character’s death.

It had to be Archie’s death for this story to resonate. It would not work to have the death of Jughead in a book called Life with Archie.

Some may question the wisdom of how Archie died (stop reading if you do not know). Newly elected Senator Kevin Keller had run on a platform of pro gun control. To have Archie shot while defending Keller at a fundraising event gives him a hero’s death. Had it been shoving Jughead out of the path of a runaway car, or falling victim to some plot by evil businessman Fred Mirth, the storyline would have fizzled out and been likely diminished in the eyes of many readers.

In terms of the art, I was struck how the art team of Pat Kennedy and Tim Kennedy used a spilled malt shop drink as a framing device for the beginning of the story as well as the tragic conclusion. As quirky as Mike Allred's alternate cover (one of many) was for the issue, it picks up on Kennedy's malt shop element quite effectively.

Make no mistake, some of these plotlines are merely to catch people’s interest with hot button issues. But Archie Comics is pursuing these topics in a manner that is not merely exploitive. Agree or disagree with the social issues addressed, here in the United States (and a majority of most other countries), we can easily buy these comics. Not so fast in Singapore as we learned this past week. I do not think Archie Comics will effect change in Singapore, but hopefully it will initiate a conversation to some constructive degree.

It will be interesting to see how Life with Archie ends with the release of issue #37 on this Wednesday.

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