Story by: Tom DeFalco
Art by: Dan Parent, Fernando Ruiz, Tim Kennedy, & Pat Kennedy
It’s really the end of an era, isn’t it? How many of us comic readers today have grown up on Archie comics? Raise your hands, I’ll wait. I certainly did; as a seven year old kid who just landed herself in the hospital with what would turn out to be a lifelong chronic illness, all I ever asked for people to bring me was that Wednesday’s Archie comics — today, almost ten years later, I have hundreds! So what is so great about Archie, anyway?
I’ll get to that. Let’s talk about the issue first.
When I say it’s the end of an era, that hardly means this is really the end of anything; Archie is of course relaunching in July as a #1 under the fantastic creative team of Mark Waid and Fiona Staples, to say nothing of the new Jughead, Betty and Veronica, and Life With Kevin Keller comics. Classic Archie stories will continue to live on in the weekly digests; really, we aren’t losing anything but gaining so much more. It’s a new beginning, not an ending. That being said, Archie’s journey through our lives as it has been, as we know it, is still changing — from now on even though the classic stories will still be there, will still be told, it will be a whole new Archie and friends spotlighted in our lives, a whole new mythos. As a long time reader, this isn’t so much bittersweet as it is purely significant. I’ve grown up with these guys, and it’s so exciting to see them growing with me now.
What I expected from Archie #666 was a graduation story. It wasn’t that, and reading through the issue, I understand why that was. Not that I wouldn’t still love to read one — I would, but I respect the intentions of classic Archie to keep this incarnation of them timeless, permanent fixtures of both the past and present. Like I said before: it’s not really an ending, and nor should we impose one. Archie #666 is a celebration of who and what Archie is; the person (as well, the character) and the legacy he represents. Archie Andrews is a klutz, he is a well-intentioned screw-up, he leads with his heart and not his brain, he is a flirt, he is a nuisance, and he is a friend. We’ve seen Archie rally when his friends, his family, his teachers or his community needs help — and now we see them all come together and rally for Archie when he needs it the most.
There is a lot to like about this issue. The story is split up into chapters to let each of the four different pencillers featured really shine; Dan Parent’s expressive and dynamic slapstick, Fernando Ruiz’s rich, detailed-packed paneling, Tim and Pat Kennedy’s stylized, fast-paced compositions. The artists here are well-chosen, their styles all very distinct yet perfectly in-synch with each other. Rich Koslowski’s inks and Glenn Whitemore’s colors do even more to tie this whole story together as a cohesive and stunning whole, and then… there’s Tom DeFalco’s story itself.
I’ve always been a fan; DeFalco has, in my experiences, always had a talent for wonderfully subtle but emotional stories, ones that effortlessly emphasize characterization and even challenge it in thoughtful ways. Tom DeFalco is the perfect writer for this issue, at least for me, because the character Archie? Archie Andrews? I’m not a fan of that guy, not generally. Sure, he has his good points, but to me his flaws have always stood out as much more unlikeable than many stories give them credit for. I’m that person that agrees with Mr. Lodge and Reggie Mantle when and wonder why people like Archie. This issue doesn’t gloss over Archie’s problems, it doesn’t fix them, it doesn’t tell us to love him because of them, it just reminds us that ultimately there is more to Archie than his flaws. That Archie is the kind of person, despite those flaws, that is better in his friends’s life than out of it — he is growing, and maybe changing, he is not toxic, but forgivable. In the end he will always be there.
And he has. Thanks, Archie.