The Death of Archie Andrews

Archiedeath2This is a great graphic novel, which I recommend widely.

Archie Comics has been a highly experimental company for the last few years. I think readers miss that because their subject matter seems nostalgic. Archie Comics give the impression that they sell easy Americana. It’s all small town life, love triangles, and teenage japes. This makes it difficult for people to notice that the comics are politically subversive.

In Archie Comics, small town America, middle America, has always been in favor of racial integration. It has always supported gay people. It has always acted compassionately to people with disabilities. People who do not share these values are the villains. As American politics has moved to the right, Archie Comics have seemed to move to the left. Archie Comics is subversive because it insists, against any an all evidence, that virtually all Americans are good, decent people and that stridently conservative values are an aberration.

In the conclusion of Life With Archie, Archie dies. The comics leading up to this had been telling two stories, the first story in each issue assumed that Archie had married Veronica Lodge, the second that he had married Betty Cooper. The final few issues merge both universes, through clever placement of speech bubbles, obscuring the face of Archie’s wife, and the use of pronouns rather than proper names. This is well done, a suitably clever ending to the two stories.

The ending allows the Archie comics to do several vital things. It allows them to talk about contemporary issues, gun violence. gay marriage, and corporate corruption aren’t what you’d usually expect from nostalgic Americana. This also open the door to new storytelling possibilities, which is important for the business as a commercial, if artistic, concern. The tonal shift to succeeding series like Afterlife with Archie, which is a zombie apocalypse, and Chilling Tales of Sabrina, also a horror title, is easier for the audience to navigate. This also sets Archie up for a reboot in Archie : Volume 2. Continuing readers have seen the characters being used to talk about significant, modern things. That tone shift, now it is bedded down, lets them update the art without losing too many current readers.This transforms the series to something marketable to a wider audience. This, in turn, makes it possible to create spin-off media as extra revenue sources.

So, well written, uses the format cleverly, strategically repositions the characters…if you are into graphic novels, this is well worth a look.

The Library Service has the complete series of the Life With Archie revival series.