Rating: 5/5 – Archie All Grown Up.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.
My sole experience with Archie prior to this last year was picking up copies of Archie’s Double Digest at the grocery store as a child. I long ago moved on to what I thought were more “serious” superhero comics and never looked back. Then along came Afterlife with Archie, which not only threw zombies into the mix, but replaced slapstick humor with mature themes and situations. Spurred by this and news of Archie’s impending death, I decided to give Life with Archie a try, a series that for the last few years has focused on two possible futures (one in which Archie married Betty, the other Veronica). Archie: The Married Life Book #1 collects the first six issues of this series, each issue featuring one story each from the two possible futures. In other words, this collection is jammed packed with a lot of fantastic material that has definitively cemented me as an Archie fan for life!
Each story begins with a short recap of their respective wedding bliss (originally published in Archie #600 – #605). However, there is no required reading before tackling Life with Archie and the recaps are sufficient to jump right into the series. Having read the marriage stories, they weren’t as good as I imagined and actually lowered my expectations going into Life with Archie. To me, the marriage stories fell flat and the characters were as one-dimensional as ever. That being said, Life with Archie immediately redeemed the whole concept by setting itself up as a bit of soft ret-conning to flesh out the details hitherto glossed over. As the story progresses, we see how the single decision by Archie to choose either Betty or Veronica alters the respective futures. Some of the differences are major, but most are subtle. The supporting cast in particular seems to play similar roles in each future, but they choose to deal with their situations differently in each.
Co-writer Paul Kupperberg admits in one of the forewords that at times he had trouble keeping track of the different storylines because there were so many similarities. I’ll admit to experiencing the same thing, having more than once gone back through the book before starting the next chapter. Despite this, Kupperberg and his co-writer Michael Uslan do a masterful job of ensuring continuity throughout. They even introduce the concept of a multiverse to explain not only the two futures in the book, but also the multitude of Archie related books released in the past 70 years. It is hinted throughout the book that this concept will be explored further in the series and I look forward to that. Until then, we are treated to a cast of characters that through their personal trials learn and grow and break free from the shackles of their previously assigned roles. Through all this growth, the art Norm Breyfogle maintains the Archie style that is as distinctly recognizable as the characters themselves. To the untrained eye, it is indistinguishable from any Archie art of the past. I would say that it is much cleaner and crisper.
In terms of story, character development, and overall Archie mythos, Archie: The Married Life Book #1 represents the very best Archie I’ve ever seen. Archie and his crew grow up and break away from the small town life that has held them captive for 70 years. In doing so, they reject their assigned archetypes what seemed to be more simple personalities in the kid’s stories to reveal a depth of character that I never expected in an Archie comic. Nevertheless, it maintains that bit of nostalgia that Archie always seems to elicit. I think that this reinvention of Archie is just what was needed after so many years and I look forward to not only the next book in this collection, but the future of the Archie brand as a whole.
Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture