In “Grand Opening” both Archie and Veronica discover what Mr. Lodge has been up to, but is it in time to save their marriage? Meanwhile in “It’s a Wonderful Life…Really!” Archie learns that it’s been Mr. Lodge behind all his and the gang’s problems as Riverdale prepares for the big triple wedding.
This issue of Life with Archie is filled with revelations, drama, and romance. Paul Kupperberg handles both big and small moments well, mixing humor and bittersweet moments in just the right measure for tween readers. The 5th and 6th grade girls are gobbling this series up. There is a waiting list for every issue. In fact, one of my students is now a proud subscriber to Life with Archie thanks to her grandmother’s early Christmas gift. She talked about the storyline so much, her grandmother decided the magazine comic would be the perfect gift for her.
There are so many good scenes in each story, it’s hard to single any one or two out for special notice. In “Grand Opening,” Kupperburg really shows how Veronica has matured. She refuses to put her mother in the middle of her and her father’s problems. She stands up to both Mr. Lodge and Archie, letting them know she doesn’t like the way that she’s been treated. She comes up with a solution to the “buying-out of Riverdale” problem and she takes the initiative in saving her marriage. Her teenage arrogance has been tempered by experience and love.
In “It’s a Wonderful Life…Really!” Kupperburg gives readers some nice moments between each of the couples getting married. Mr. Weatherbee watching Ms. Grundy and thinking about how they don’t have a lengthy future together due to her illness is enough to bring on the tears. The quotes on marriage that begin each scene is a wonderful touch. Kupperburg also gets points for referencing Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” and the line, “They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot,” in the scene where Archie imagines what being married to Veronica would be like.
Norm Breyfogle’s art is expressive and attractive. There’s a strong sense of flow between the panels, creating the sense that you’re looking at a movie on paper. The double-page spread of the triple wedding is absolutely beautiful. Colorist Glenn Whitmore is in top form. In the “It’s a Wonderful Life…Really!” chapter, his use of dark shadow is especially impressive. The panel where Mr. Lodge makes his offer to Archie shows both men with their faces almost entirely blacked out. It’s through their body language that readers identify what each man is thinking and feeling.
Filling out the issue are Dan Parent posters, a short article on what the characters like to do during cold weather, and a two-page piece on bullying. This piece has celebrities readers are familiar with talking about how they were bullied when younger and how their lives have turned around since then. I’m not sure how helpful this would be for younger readers having problems with bullies, but the thought is nice. More helpful is the advice Archie gives on what to do when bullied, though, again, will kids use it.
Life with Archie #5 is another enjoyable issue that’s sure to delight young readers.