For nearly two years running, the Life with Archie series has proven to be one of the most ridiculous story lines in the Archie Universe. More so then that crossover with the Punisher. It’s that outlandish.
For those new to the series, Life with Archie takes places approximately ten years from the Riverdale Gang’s high school years, and the book is separated into two timelines: one if Archie married Veronica, and another if Archie had married Betty. Though the choice may seem like a blip on the radar, in Riverdale it can pretty much determine whether the star quarterback Meathead “Moose” grew up to become the Mayor of Riverdale or a high school janitor. Yeah, Archie’s love life is that influential.
Paul Kupperberg writes his scripts to mirror that of the daytime soap operas your grandmother watches after The View, and being in on the joke adds another level of enjoyment to the stories. Everything from dramatic cutaways of Veronica suddenly crying into Archie arms, to rooms suddenly becoming shadowy with the evil corporate king Fred Mirth is mentioned (even if a character is outside on a sunny day) are all winks and nods to the reader that Kupperberg knows how ridiculous this all is, but it all works well within these little universes.
Issue 20 takes place directly after the last storyline where through some inter-dimension time-rip both worlds of the “Archie Marries” timelines meet, causing an enormous explosion as well as characters meeting their alternate selves, which would frazzle anyone. Though most of the gang doesn’t remember the incident thanks to a convenient case of amnesia, in the “Archie Marries Veronica” story both Ethel and Mr. Lodge remember their encounters and its taking a serious emotional toll.
On the other-hand, in the “Archie Marries Betty” world, it’s business as usual as the gang tries to regroup after the event and goes back to their daily routine of winning battle of the band competitions, teaching melodramatic dyslexic students how to read, and dealing with Jellybean’s burly biker boyfriend.
While the issue brisk read, the problem lies that due to the amount of page-time given to characters each installment feels rushed. Since there are so many characters in Riverdale that Kupperberg wants to use, it’s hard to get a sense of what’s going on as a whole as everyone only gets around two pages each. Even Archie, the series’ headlining character, is only in six pages total. This problem could easily be fixed if Kupperberg were to focus on one major plot point, with a secondary plot-point that could touch base with other characters as it moves forward.
Of the two stories, Fernando Ruiz’s art on the “Archie Marries Veronica” story looks wonderful. He flexes his skill through the book with interesting use of perspective shots in panels as well as pitch-perfect facial expression to truly give a well-rounded feel to the characters. As this story has a focus on Jughead and Ethel’s budding romance, Ruiz’s is one of the few Archie artists who is able to draw them in a visually pleasing light without making Ethel look like a witch or Jughead like a victim of narcolepsy.
The same can’t be said about Pat and Tim Kennedy’s work on the “Archie Marries Betty” storyline. Missing the charm that Ruiz’s pencils have, the art in this installment is way off base to be “Archie”-like. With wonky anatomy and facial expressions that are more realistic than cartoony, it gives a weird vibe to the story that doesn’t mesh well with other Archie art. And while stylistic art maybe welcomed in other comics, when it comes to an Archie book, you can’t reinvent the wheel, just make it look as visually pleasing as possible
As a whole, Life with Archie is still a series that works with the dual continuity as tongue-in-cheek writing. The story’s use of melodrama is still a great way to mature the Archie universe without affecting any major Archie continuity, and the issue’s pace allows readers to flip through leisurely. It’s almost a guilty pleasure with so many heavy, emotional comics on the stand. But Life with Archie is like potato chips, you know it’s not the best thing for you, but once you take that first crunch of a chip you know it’s only a matter of minutes before you eat the entire bag.