Archie Comics continues to play with the format of Life with Archie: The Married Life, constantly seeking to make it better and more entertaining for its readers. As of last issue, the comics are in newsprint, while the rest is on glossy paper. The new, updated version of Jinx is missing this issue, leaving more pages for pieces on featured celebrity Lady Gaga, puzzles, horoscopes and game reviews. I have to admit I really enjoyed Josie and the Pussycats’ comments on Gaga’s wardrobe.
The real meat of the magazine, though, is the stories. Paul Kupperberg provides two more entertaining installments that examine the lives of our favorite Riverdalians. In “Archie Marries Veronica,” office gossip is causing a rift between Archie and Veronica; Reggie worries about his upcoming trial; Betty receives a surprise visit from her big sister Polly; and Mr. Lodge schemes. Meanwhile, in the “Archie Marries Betty” universe, Archie discovers what it’s like to be on the other side of the teacher’s desk; Moose and Jughead are both frustrated with their careers; and Mr. Lodge schemes.
I’ve said before I don’t care for Mr. Lodge’s characterization — I’m still hoping he’s been replaced by an imposter and the real Mr. Lodge is a prisoner somewhere — but I have to admit Kupperberg is consistent in his portrayal of the millionaire financier. Lodge has two goals that he believes in and will do anything to achieve. He wants to see Riverdale grow and he wants his daughter happy. The problem is he thinks his way is the only way to achieve those two goals. He is a “Helicopter Parent” extraordinaire. Two scenes perfectly illustrate this. In “Archie Marries Veronica” Lodge walks in on an argument between Archie and Veronica and is taken aback and angry when Archie stands up to him. He’s used to being in charge and doesn’t like control being out of his hands. In “Archie Marries Betty” Lodge warns Jason Blossom to behave himself around Veronica. Here he’s in full “Papa Grizzly” mode. These moments humanize Lodge, explaining a bit of his motivation, while moving the story along.
Kupperberg excels in writing these small scenes. Whether it’s Midge surprising Jughead on the road, Moose indulging in an understandable temper tantrum, Bella Beazly making a play for Archie or Archie and Betty talking about their day, Kupperberg captures the heart of these characters and how they relate to one another. One of the other things he does so well is handle the ever-expanding cast. By bringing in Polly and Bella, Kupperberg makes good use of already established characters to add plot twists and up the emotional drama.
Ably aiding Kupperberg in bringing all these people and moments to life are the two art teams. While Norm Breyfogle and Andrew Pepoy’s styles aren’t that dissimilar, there are differences in the way they render the characters. The most obvious difference to me is that Pepoy’s Veronica in “Archie Marries Betty” looks a bit younger, sassier and more confident than Breyfogle’s. This fits her character and circumstance as established in that universe. Pepoy has a great sequence where Veronica’s just had an argument with her father. Her head is lowered, her hair half covering her face. Her posture is one of defeat and sorrow. Then she looks up and you see her alert intelligence as she wonders what her father is up too. Breyfogle’s Veronica, on the other hand, seems more mature, a bit seasoned by suffering. There’s a beautiful sequence where she walks past Archie’s office door, tears rolling down her face. Again, this fits the character as portrayed in “Archie Marries Veronica.” In general I’d have to say Breyfogle’s art style leans more toward the “realistic” edge of the spectrum, while Pepoy’s is more “comic.” Both men, however, bring a dynamic expressiveness to their work that draws the reader in.
Glenn Whitmore’s colors in both stories are fantastic. I really think they look better on the newsprint. His use of blacks and browns to create shadows and a foreboding atmosphere is unparalleled. The art is never obscured, yet the shadows give the pages depth.
Life with Archie: The Married Life #9 gives readers fascinating characters, interesting plots, beautiful art and enjoyable extra features. In other words, it’s a great package.