Archie was introduced in 1941 as the “every man” in contrast to the “super man” according to Jon Goldwater, publisher and co-CEO of Archie Comics. Even without superpowers the comic book character always manages to do the right thing and makes the ultimate sacrifice this week.
“The way in which Archie dies is everything that you would expect of Archie,” said Goldwater. “He dies heroically. He dies selflessly. He dies in the manner that epitomizes not only the best of Riverdale, but the best of all of us. It’s what Archie has come to represent over the past almost 75 years.”
Archie dies during an assassination attempt on his gay friend Senator-elect Kevin Keller in Life With Archie #36. Next week’s final issue takes place one year after Archie’s death and concludes the series that features two separate timelines: one in which Archie marries Betty and another where Archie marries Veronica. Rather than kill Archie twice, the timelines converge for the final two issues. Any scenes featuring explicit references to Archie’s wife have been edited to in order obscure her identity.
The Senator is targeted after he becomes an advocate for stricter gun laws in response to a shooting that wounds his husband. An ominous looking man in hoodie follows him to a fundraising after party at Jughead’s Chocklit shop where a FBI agent wrongly assumes the man is the shooter. It’s a not-so subtle reference to Trayvon Martin. Of course, Archie sees the guy with the guy is the real threat.
“We wanted to do something that was impactful that would really resonate with the world and bring home just how important Archie is to everyone,” Goldwater said. “That’s how we came up with the storyline of saving Kevin. He could have saved Betty. He could have saved Veronica. We get that, but metaphorically, by saving Kevin, a new Riverdale is born.”
On the contrary, Archie saves Betty and Veronica. Kevin is incidental.
Kevin knows a gunman is targeting him and yet inexplicably dives in front of Betty of Veronica putting them in danger, which is presumably Archie’s priority given one of them is his wife and mother of their children. The first panels overlap to show Kevin shielding them but they appear more prominently in the following panel which appears to show Arhie’s viewpoint. Furthermore, Archie charges the gunman, not necessarily protecting any one person. His last words are telling.
“Is everyone okay?” he asks Betty and Veronica. “I’ve always loved you.”
If he was trying to save Kevin, surely he’d inquire about him by name.
In the commotion, Archie symbolically spills his chocolate soda with three straws, one for Archie, Betty and Veronica. A similar spill occurs at the beginning of the book when a young Archie first meets his love interests.
As far as I’m concerned, Archie died saving Betty and Veronica until writer Paul Kupperberg and artists Pat & Tim Kennedy say otherwise and honestly not even then.
This may not be the last time Archie dies. The iconic character lives on in other books including Afterlife with Archie, in which Riverdale has been beset by a zombie virus. Like The Walking Dead the book isn’t afraid to kill off main characters including Archie’s best friend Jughead, who dies in the first issue.