A Ridiculously Thorough Look At “Life With Archie” #3 & #4

Alrighty then, today we’re going to do a double review covering ‘Life With Archie’ #3 and #4, and there’s a lot to talk about.

First and foremost, if you aren’t reading LWA you are truly missing out. Seriously. And yes, I’m an Archie nerd so I’m probably pre-disposed to loving this book. Granted. But for anyone out there who is a fan of graphic fiction (and if you aren’t why are you here?), you need to get on board with this. Right now.

Yes, I know. The covers kind of make it look like a teeny-bopper magazine. Don’t let this deter you. Accept this as a marketing angle to help re-open the traditional news-stand and move on. 2010 has been the year that Archie Comics started to reclaim a long-dormat distribution stream for single issues, and the magazine format will help this quest. When the ‘Proposal’ storyline started appearing in grocery and convenience stores the over-arching company strategy was clear: Re-open the news-stand.

Feel free to ignore the Teen Beat-esque features between the two stories. They are by no means integral. Again, they’re there to appease a specific demographic and are totally harmless. In a recent interview, Nancy Silberkleit (Co-CEO) said that 60% of Archie fans are girls aged 8-15 so this extraneous content is clearly to keep them on board.

For people like me (36, male) the stories are what LWA is all about, and Paul Kupperburg is knocking it out of the park. I was worried when he took over for Michael Uslan after the first issue, and there was no need to be. Mr. Kupperburg is crafting a story and characters with many, many layers, and the relationship growing between the two ‘realities’ promises to add even more wrinkles to the mix. But the most exciting parts are the themes that are being played with, and the way they are treated.

In fact, through the themes and situations being explored, ‘Life With Archie’ is proving itself to be one of the most relevant and timely comics being produced today.

Speaking of soaps, doesn't Hiram look a lot like Mac Corey from Another World?

Is it soap opera-y? Yes. This isn’t a negative. Dexter, True Blood, Six Feet Under and the Sopranos were all, at core, soap operas, and that didn’t detract from their brilliance.

‘Life With Archie’ is one of the best examinations available of what life is like right now for 20 and 30 somethings who are struggling to find their place, and it is also a reflection of where average America is at today versus 1950. If the classic Riverdale USA is a representation of the American ideal of the 1950′s, LWA is becoming a look into the struggle behind keeping those classic principles alive in a much more complicated world.

The world of LWA isn’t dark and gritty, but it is tough and realistic. Life doesn’t always work out how we want it to, and that’s one of the main themes in LWA. Hard work, talent, dedication and drive may not be enough in this new Riverdale, which is a pretty clear reflection of our current reality. Especially if you happen to be in creative or artistic fields.

OK, on to the books!

First we’re going to look at the Veronica stories from the two issues.

The Veronica story from issue 3 is framed as an email from Arch to the missing Dilton (never to be sent, just to be saved in case Dilly ever comes home). When we left off, Archie was on the verge of discovering Hiram Lodge’s secret (and seemingly nefarious) plans. He now knows there are secret memos, and has his suspicions about what may be in them. After fishing for info from his fellow execs, Archie is betrayed to Hiram and a game of cat and mouse begins between the two. Each knows more than he’s letting on, and each harbours deep suspicions of the other, and all the while they have to smile and play the game of son/father-in-law as well as maintaining their professional facades.

Uh, Hiram? Hate to break it to you, but you aren't actually fooling him either.

Subterfuge! Intrigue! Shadowy agendas! The Hiram of this reality is depicted as a total dick, and as I’ve been saying all along there’s more to this than meets the eye. For some reason he’s hell-bent on his plans to develop downtown and Memory Lane, and I’m sticking with my assumption that Hiram is actually serving the greater good. Hiram Lodge is not evil, or even that mean. Such incredible care has been given to making each character true to their roots that it is, literally, impossible that there isn’t more to this than we know.

The biggest news around Hiram in this story? He’s got Jason Blossom in his employ, and is using him to destroy Moose’s campaign. Jason Blossom! For real! I hope this means that Cheryl is waiting in the wings. Perhaps with her husband? Perhaps she’s now Cheryl Chisholm?

Archie’s issues with Hiram are also causing problems with Ronnie. Veronica is (naturally) completely torn between her Dad and the company she will one day run, and the man she loves. And for the most part, she’s handling it well. Unfortunately, she keeps crying on Reg’s shoulder and people keep seeing, and misinterpreting. Gossip is starting about them, and it breaks my heart but a lot of it seems to have been started by Ethel. I thought Ethel was above this kind of crap, but perhaps her aborted engagement to Fred Mertz has left her off-balance. Perhaps.

You must remember this: A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh. The fundamental things apply as time goes by.

There was one near-kiss between Ron and Reg, but Ms. Lodge shut that down. Kind of disappointing that Reg faltered, he’s proven himself to be one of the most responsible and mature characters in this reality. There also seems to be an unrevealed back-story to Mr. Mantle. He hints at having lived out west at some point, and I hope we see this thread picked up in the future. Maybe Reg went to Hollywood with stars in his eyes and dreams that were never going to come true. Maybe that’s why this Reggie is more humble and centred.

Witness the moment that Reginald Mantle first got in touch with his inner James Carville. "When your opponent is drowning, throw the son of a bitch an anvil."

Reg also decides to secretly help Moose out with his campaign (despite the fact that it will mean his job is he’s found out), and re-iterates one of the biggest themes that’s been running through these stories: We get to choose who we want to be. While the weight of others’ assumptions and expectations can be a terrible burden at times, we all still get to choose the person we want to be. This also goes hand-in-hand with the idea that life doesn’t turn out how we expect.

We don’t get to choose how life will turn out, but we do get to choose how we react to it and who we are in the world.

Which is one place where Archie really steps up to the line. The tension between Ron and himself is extreme, and there are no easy answers to their problems. Their work and home lives are so intertwined that it would be next to impossible to separate them, and their communication is falling apart. Their trust in each other is being shaken, and they each feel like the other is shutting them out. Barely civil, Archie and Veronica are suddenly an accurate depiction of a marriage in trouble.

Presented as evidence that 'Life WIth Archie' is, in fact, a story for adults. I have lived this scene, and I'm willing to bet most people reading this have.

And what does Archie do? He comes to the realization that the most important thing is to connect again, to communicate. One of the most beautiful moments in this story is when Arch realizes that he and Ron have ‘forgotten how to be nice to each other’. He then suffers Ron’s initial coolness and tries to bridge the gap a little. Sitting down together and having dinner won’t solve everything, but Archie has the emotional maturity to see that it’s the best possible first step. “What could be simpler than talking to someone you love?” Archie wonders. And Veronica steps up too, visibly displaying how relieved and happy she is to have Arch extend the olive branch. Bravo, Andrews’.

"When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain."

There's a man who leads a life of danger, to everyone he meets he stays a stranger. With every move he makes another chance he takes, odds are he won't live to see tomorrow.

The idea that Dilton is pulling some strings is also re-intorduced here. He makes sure Midge gets the paper that talks about stimulus loans for small business, and we can assume there’s a reason beyond him wanting to help Jug with his dreams. Dilton is functioning on levels way higher than that, and has some kind of knowledge of the outcome of various pairings and events. Mr. Doiley is up to something, something big, and I think it’s totally safe to assume it has something to do with Hiram.

While the Veronica story in issue 3 was more a re-cap than anything, the issue 4 story kicks the plot into high gear.

Archie is now aggressively pursuing ways to save Pop’s and help Jug, regardless of the cost. I like the idea of Archie choosing to do right by his friends even though it carries the potential for huge personal repercussions. Go Archie!

We also start to see that Archie is actually good at business, he doesn’t just have the job because he’s sleeping with the boss. Even Hiram (Hiram!) has to admit that Archie is smart, stubborn, and good at what he’s doing. When Hiram sends Arch to Vegas to get him out of the picture, Archie manages to turn it all to his advantage, impress the people Lodge sent him to see and then reorganize his schedule so he can get home early and put his plans into action. Go Archie!

Oh, ouch. And Veronica delivered this within earshot of her minions! Welcome to extreme humiliation.

It’s nice to see Archie take some action, and for him to realize that he’s been blindly marching to someone else’s orders. I wish he had brought Ron into his ideas more, but after the way she took him out (verbally) before he went to Vegas, I’m not surprised that he didn’t. And it was a brutal tongue-lashing by Mrs. Lodge-Andrews. Ouch. Talk about putting someone in his place, but she kind of had a point: Archie did need to take care of business. He was waffling between both sides and doing nothing for either, and it took some stern words from Ronnie to wake him up a little. Now Archie is on a collision course with Hiram and his plans.

Don't know that I will, but until I can find me the girl who'll stay and won't play games behind me, I'll be what I am: A solitary man.

Maybe if Arch hadn’t accused Ron of being in on Hiram’s shenanigans she wouldn’t have been so cold. One of the themes being explored in this story is the value of trust. Jug doesn’t trust Archie, Arch doesn’t trust Ron or Reggie, etc. When your trust in someone is tested, if you believe in that person and love them, you have to give them the benefit of the doubt. Veronica comes around to this and by then end of the story she’s having serious doubts about Hiram, having decided that Archie’s suspicions deserve some investigation. It’s a tough decision for her, but she made the choice to be with Archie, and it looks like she’s going to live up to the promises she made him, company and Father be damned. Go Veronica!

Man has climbed Mount Everest, gone to the bottom of the ocean. He's fired rockets at the Moon, split the atom, achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor... except crime!

Let’s take a moment to discuss Hiram and his plans. It would seem the ‘big secret’ from the mystery memos is that he wants to bring national franchises to downtown and build high-end condos where Memory Lane is. Pretty banal, as master plans go. A commentary on the evolution of small town America over the last 50 years? Clearly. A bitter-sweet requiem for Mom and Pop businesses and personal service? Probably. A plan of such evil intent and dastardly consequence that it seems appropriate to build a scale model complete with little people to crush (and a princess canopy to hide it from prying eyes) whenever Hiram is feeling malevolent? Nope.

Seriously, what is with the model? I have to assume that this cartoonish depiction of Hiram as an ersatz Bond villain is a clear hint that there is something wrong here. Right? Please Hiram, don’t go breaking my heart.

I also have to assume that a lot of this small business vs. corporate overlords stuff is about Archie Comics itself. What other ubiquitous brand is still a family company? Archie Comics is one of the biggest small businesses in the States, and a massive success story. This success has not been won easily, and when Jon and Nancy took the reins 18 months ago it was a company in turmoil with diminishing sales and an uncertain future. By evolving Riverdale while staying totally true to the heart and soul of Archie Jon and Nancy have managed a brand revitalization that most entertainment companies would kill off most of their executive to attain. If anyone has insightful things to say about the challenges of being a small company in a field dominated by giant monoliths, it is the executive at Archie Comics.

Just a small town girl livin' in a lonely world, she took the midnight train goin' anywhere. Don't stop believing, Betty.

Betty (who appeared in one panel in issue 3) returns in style and wanders into Ambrose’s restaurant, thus bringing the two realities even closer to each other. Up until now Ambrose has only been in the Betty stories, and his inclusion in this reality is an unexpected, but most welcome, development. Betty was drawn in by the smell of the burgers Ambrose cooks, as they remind her of home. This isn’t a shock, since Jughead gave Ambrose the recipe. Betty and ‘Brose don’t recognize each other at this point, but I have a feeling issue 5 will deepen this relationship.

Ambrose is of incredible importance to these stories, as he represents the idea of making the best of what you’re dealt. He wanted a fancy restaurant in the city, and even though his dive is the best he could do at the moment he keeps a positive (yet realistic) attitude and strives to keep his dream alive. He seems to have reconciled the gap between what we want and what we can get better than most of the gang, probably because his life wasn’t exactly the Cosby Show. Go Ambrose!

Issue 4 also sees the romance between Jug and Midge blossom a bit more, Moose makes gains in the polls and Ron and Reg are once again seen by a Lodge employee in an embrace. While it was totally innocent, and Reg was actually being a good man and trying to get Ron not to give up on Archie, appearances can be damaging. A lesson Mrs. Lodge-Andews is about to learn.

"You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been."

Then we have the mystery of Mr. Pavia. Ostensibly, he was introduced to give Moose an idea of where the public perception of him is at, but there must be more going on than that. For one thing, Mr. Pavia gets a full page of panel time, which is unprecedented for a character that has no bearing on the plot. He’s also given a history with Jug, being a daily customer at Pop’s. Look for Mr. Pavia to pop up again, perhaps in relation to a certain Mr. Doiley. After all, Mr. Pavia does look science-y. Doesn’t he? Sure, he does.

The saddest moment of the story is courtesy of Mr. Reggie Mantle, when he admits to himself that Archie is the better man. He also seems to hint at a possible failed marriage in his own past, but I could just be reading into things. I do that, sometimes.

Perhaps I'm over-reaching, but Reg's comment about how Arch wouldn't wonder "why?" seems to indicate that he's been down this dusty highway himself.

At the end of the issue we have a lot of pieces in place for the next instalment, which should bring Arch and Hiram into direct conflict. Archie not returning missed calls is also going to cause some issue, and he would do well to remember the lesson he learned last issue: Communication is key with the person you love. Without it, you got nothing.

I'm glad Archie is looking out for his self-respect, but he may want to take a moment to dial back the self-centredness.

So let’s move on to the two Betty stories that make up the other side to the LWA coin. A lot of the characters find themselves in similar situations to the Veronica stories: Jug and Midge have a romance and are trying to buy out Terry ‘Pop’ Tate (in the Betty stories there is a ‘mystery buyer’ bidding on the place), Moose is dating Ilana and dealing with his anger issues (it’s a little unclear if he’s running for mayor in both realities or not), Reg is still in love with Ronnie, Dilton is MIA and Hiram Lodge is a huge giant douche.

The growing similarities are helping to bring  the bigger concept of LWA into focus: The path not taken. This was first introduced in the ‘Proposal’ storyline (as noted by the Library of Congress), and the yin/yang of the Betty and Veronica stories in LWA are deepening this.

LWA is chronicling the two possible futures for Archie depending on one giant decision. Not ‘Betty or Veronica’. On the surface, sure, but what Archie really had to choose between was following his dream into an unknown future or using his skills to gain security and reliable income.

This could have easily been depicted in a very black and white fashion, but thankfully Archie Comics aimed much higher than that. There are no easy answers here. Archie taking an executive position in the Veronica stories isn’t about him selling out, that would be too easy. He’s proving himself to be a capable, shrewd businessman, and it looks like he’s going to get the chance to use these skills to help his friends and town. Archie, in this reality, is a creative man of conscience that is willing to take personal risks for the greater good. Not exactly selling out to the man.

In the Betty stories we see Archie come up against the very real obstacles that face everyone in the arts, and Archie doesn’t always take them on with the best attitude. Indeed, he spends quite a bit of time whining. I think one of the things we are supposed to be questioning is exactly how serious Archie is about music. Is it his love, or is it more shallow and ego-centric than that? Compared to Chuck and Nancy, who are running a comic shop while continuing their own work and relationship, Archie really isn’t giving it everything he could. In each of the first two issues he ‘quit’, so I think it’s valid to question his motivation.

The Betty story in issue 3 gives us a more motivated Archie, as Ambrose and he work to turn the Chow House into a new club. Optimistic, enthusiastic and motivated, Archie is suddenly a new man. Maybe he just needed to quit waiting for the world to hand him all the things he wanted. Maybe he simply learned the lesson that everyone in the arts learns: You have to make your own opportunities.

A new (and welcome) motivation for Archie is also revealed: Fear. Archie knows that if this club doesn’t fly, his only recourse will be a job that involves saying “Would you like fries with that?”. He also mentions Johnny’s Rocketship, which is the evil fast-food giant from the Veronica stories, further narrowing the gap between the two realities.

Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be. There's a shadow hanging over me, oh yesterday came suddenly.

Reggie has ended up working at Cost Mart, and once again Reggie Mantle is in the running for the saddest story award. Oh Reggie, if I could hug you I would.

Reggie is at the bottom, in every way. He’s basically convinced that his best years are gone, and has no idea what to do next. He doesn’t seem to know how he got here, or where he’s going. He just knows that he’s sad, and that makes me sad. Like, wet puppy sad.

Later on he shares his misery with Jug and Ron, who are also crying the blues, but Reg’s sad tale takes the Pathetic Award. Self-pity much, Mr. M.?

But then, oh my…..it’s too much. Just when I thought Reg couldn’t break my heart more, he shatters what’s left of it. Remember how Reggie used to be? Mr. Perfect? Called himself The Greatest? Ego the size of a mountain? Well, Reggie has left the building. When he asks Veronica if she ever considered settling for second best, I had to stop reading for a few minutes. Heart rending. I mean, bad enough to admit being second best to yourself, that’s tragic, but to admit it to the object of your affections? Not only admit it, but use it as a romantic overture?  Wow.

"There is a healthful hardiness about real dignity that never dreads contact and communion with others however humble."

But this isn’t the most heartbreaking part of the story, not at all.

No, the person who broke my heart the most is Geraldine Grundy. While Reggie is busy in self-pity land (Taking second place in the self-pity competition is Ms. Veronica Lodge. She generally mopes about, although at least she has come to the realization that she treated Archie like crap, took advantage of him and took him for granted. This is excellent progress. Go Veronica!) Geraldine is facing her own mortality with grace and courage.

We always knew Ms. G. was strong, but she really takes it to a new level here. “We promised not to be afraid.” she say to Waldo Weatherbee (her new fiancee), and while Waldo seems on the verge of not being able to handle it, Geraldine has made up her mind about how she’s going to face the end of her life.

While it’s never been made explicit what the timeline of her terminus is, we can infer from the fact that an experimental treatment would only add months that she doesn’t have long. Geraldine certainly didn’t choose this for herself, but she has chosen how she’s going to face it.

"They tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice... that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person."

This not only ties into one of the themes we’ve been following, but it introduces discussion on matters far more weighty than most expect from an Archie comic. Geraldine isn’t going to try the treatment because it will make her sick and tired, and she’d rather live shorter and better. These are ideas that have started weighing on a lot of people as their parents age. The freedom to dictate the end of your own life is going to be a big topic in our world in the coming decade as the boomers reach their 70s. There are a lot of people who will make the same decision as Geraldine, and while Waldo mainly understands, I think a lot of younger people wouldn’t. If Geraldine had a grown child and a small grandchild would she be getting pressure from her family to take the treatment? I think this happens often, where the younger generation can’t let go but the elder has made peace with what’s coming.

The fact that Geraldine can smile and make wedding preparations with Bernice Beazley (so far she’s only told Waldo of her situation) is a testament to her incredible personal strength. As much as I don’t want to see her go, I would love to see the funeral of Geraldine Grundy. A moving eulogy by Waldo Weatherbee, a heart broken Prof. Flutesnoot (who could never admit his feelings), Betty would be in tears and Jughead would finally realize that he and Geraldine had the exact same body.

Speaking of weddings, it would appear that Jughead and Midge are going to tie the knot for business purposes. In this reality the stimulus program gives preference to married couples, so Jug and Midge decide to get hitched. A questionable reason, to be sure. It’s interesting that the stimulus program is the big hope in both realities; more interesting that in this one they prefer married applicants and in the Veronica reality they do not.

Sadly, it would seem that Chuck and Nancy are heading down a bad path in their relationship. They’ve been looking for work in comics together as a writer/artist team, and each has now been offered an opportunity without the other. They both make the same stupid decision: To not tell their partner about it because they assume the other would be crushed.

So when you look at me you better look hard and look twice. Is that me baby, or just a brilliant disguise?

Dear Chuck and Nancy,

Learn to trust your partner, otherwise why are you together? You’re both now keeping secrets and using the justification that it’s somehow in the other’s best interests. What hubris! You’ve both decided that the other isn’t as strong as they actually are, and it’s going to damage what you have together.

And what is your end game? You guys run a comic store together, so eventually the books each of you are working on will come out. Chuck, do you think Nancy won’t notice your name and art in the new issue of Mr. Justice? And Nancy, your name in the Stark Horse solicits will probably tip Chuck off. I know he isn’t the brightest bulb, but he isn’t that dim.

Trusting each other means talking about things that may hurt your partner, you just need a little courage.

Your pal,

Mark

As we move into the Betty story from issue 4, we need to take a moment, yet again, and talk about Hiram Lodge.

Dear Paul Kupperburg,

Please tell me Hiram isn’t really the evil prick he seems to be. Please?

Sincerely,

Mark

While it's nice to see Hiram happy, the stresses of being an autocratic despot can be extreme, it saddens me that he's only filled with glee because he managed to destroy Betty's career. Say it ain't so, Hiram.

Hiram in the Veronica stories is hard as nails and slightly despicable, but in these Betty stories Hiram is an evil bastard. He talks (to himself, a sure sign of a super villain) about ‘crushing a nobody’ like Archie. He plots and schemes, has a private eye following Archie, soliloquies about how Archie will pay for hurting his daughter and spends a ton of money to get Betty fired from her menial job at Sacks Sixth Ave.

For real? This is all way overboard if his motivation is Ronnie’s broken heart. No, there is a bigger motivation. As Dilton showed us in the first issue, who connects with who has drastic effects on the whole reality. Hiram is either working for the greater good, or has lost his marbles entirely. No, greater good, greater good. He knows that Betty and Archie need to split up to avoid some kind of calamity.

What really sucks is that he’s dragged poor Ambrose into the mire. By sending every inspector possible to the Chow House, Hiram has doomed Ambrose to insolvency. Another small business will close, and Ambrose will probably end up cooking at Denny’s. Until his substance abuse problems rear their ugly head (he’ll blame his Mom for this), at which point he’ll be fired and start to wander the back alleys of the city. He’ll beg for change and ramble crazily about pirates and Martians, until the day he’s shot dead by an over-anxious rent-a-cop. The result of this will be new gun laws in NY state, and a bill called ‘Ambrose’s Law’ will restrict what weapons private security can carry.

It’s entirely possible that this is nothing but wild supposition, but we’ll see.

It seems possible that this could all end with a tense stand-off at Lodge Manor, ending with a hail of bullets and Hermione dying with her love.

One major point of interest is that the news of Hiram’s shenanigans seems to propel Archie’s neighbour Singer into action. When he was introduced, it was made clear that nobody actually believes he’s a G-Man, but now I’m not so sure. When Archie tells him how every inspector came in together, Singer’s suspicion is piqued and he looks into it. OK, I suppose it’s possible he’s just a whack-job talking into his cuff. It also seems possible that he’s actually watching over Archie.

This isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem: Archie is at the centre of whatever Dilton’s up to, and Dilton was hip-deep in some government experiments when he went AWOL. The stakes between the two realities may be higher than even I guessed.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this story is called ‘Betty Vs Veronica’ on the cover of each issue. This isn’t just a glimpse into two possibilities, this is a competition between the two with consequences that will reach far and wide. It looks like Archie is going to return to Memory Lane next issue, which could be the first indication that he’s aware of the opposing realities.

Issue 4 also sees the ‘second best’ romance between Ronnie and Reg take shape. She finds him working at Dunk-a-Muffin and basically decides to ‘keep’ him. (Side note: One time on a plane I watched 5 back-to-back episodes of ‘Jerry Hall’s Kept Man’. Greatest. TV. Ever.) Basically they start acting like teenagers again, and nobody is very happy about it.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, and - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Ricky Mantle has a wonderful scene with Reg, that helps to make up for his years of absenteeism. I wish he would take some responsibility for his rotten parenting though. Seriously, Reg was always allowed to run amok, was always driving a flash car and had fancy duds. Maybe if Ricky wanted Reg to amount to something he should have made his son work for some things. Reg never needed a crappy job as a teen, and subsequently he never learned the value of working. Ricky and Victoria Mantle share some of the blame for their over-grown man-child, and I hope to see them step up a little more.

Ricky does good here, though. He points out to Reg that there is a word for men who live off women (Lucky?), and asks him to come work with him at the paper. This would seem to be a major concession on Ricky’s part, and a final, desperate salvo to try and save Reggie from his own self-defeat and laziness.

Unfortunately, Reg can’t see the forest for the trees yet, and prefers to let his insecurities and low self-esteem dictate his actions.

You're right, Reg isn't a consolation prize. The home version of jeopardy is a consolation prize. Reggie is a broken, sad man whose emotions you are on the verge of obliterating. Just so we're clear.

You know who else is unhappy with Ron and Reg romancing? Hiram Lodge, that’s who. He’s pretty blunt with Ronnie, and is displeased that she seems intent on claiming that she loves Reg. I guess this is the problem with entering a ‘second best’ romance, your heart is never truly in it. United by defeat and sadness is maybe not the best foundation for a relationship.

Speaking of poor foundations, last issue Midge and Jug decided to marry to increase their chances of getting a stimulus grant. I’m glad I’m not the only one who questioned this, it would seem Geraldine and Bernice are opposed to the idea.

Perhaps the greatest revelation in the conversation where Geraldine and Bernice set Midge straight is when Ms. G. discusses the multitude of men who tried to make her their wife.

Dear Archie Comics, Please publish a mini-series that chronicles the trail of broken hearts Geraldine has left in her wake. I promise to buy it. Yours, Mark

Thank heavens! The idea of Geraldine never having turned heads was a ludicrous one, given her intellect and compassion. The fact that she chose to be alone until she found the ‘true’ one is another example of her incredible personal strength. Go Geraldine!

So what is Midge to do? Ostensibly, she suggested getting married to save Jug’s dream but it’s pretty obvious she’s in love with Mr. Jones. Plucking up her courage, she tells Jug she can’t do it, that she doesn’t want to marry for business or convenience.

And then the bomb drops.

It's true, Jughead Jones is in love.

Here we have the pay-off for 70 years of Jughead. He may not talk about his feelings, he may not reveal them much and he may not broadcast them to all of his friends, but Jughead has deep and profound romantic feelings and he’s finally outed himself. Add that to his excellent work ethic and strength of character, and Midge Klump is one lucky lady.

Betty’s fortunes are on the upswing, as she discovers that interpersonal and networking skills can take her many places. As she puts more and more people together, her facilitation skills are being noticed by all those around her. Her innate ability to see the potential in people is also coming into play. She hooks up a film scoring gig for Archie based on one of his ridiculous songs. Amy (the director) dismisses the lyrics but hears exactly what she needs in the ‘folk-operatic’ song. Archie would never have thought of submitting the song, he just saw it as ridiculous. Betty saw what was under the surface, which is probably and pretty good explanation for why she’s with Archie. She can see what he’s capable of, and wants to help him reach those goals. Go Betty!

Screw you, Hiram Lodge. Betty is going to pull out of this just fine.

Before I (finally) wrap this up, I want to take a moment to sing the praises of Norm Breyfogle’s art. The art in these stories is fantastic, and the way the characters are aged is sensitive and interesting. The layouts are well above average as well, and seeing this work on a magazine page is worth the price tag. Bravo, Mr. Breyfogle!

For those who regularly read my reviews (Hi, Mom!), you may have noticed a complete lack of consistency in the ratings department. With a new year approaching, I’m trying to nail things down a little, so starting today I’ll be rating all Archie comics out of 5 logos.

‘Life With Archie’ #3 gets 4.5 Archie logos, since I felt that the Veronica story was really treading water, and the third issue is a little early for that.

‘Life With Archie’ #4 gets 5 Archie logos. Both stories advanced quite a bit, there were some beautiful themes to dive into and the quality of the title seems to be maintaining the high bar set by the first issue.

About Mark Haney

Mark Haney's album "Aim for the Roses" is now available on iTunesand on Amazon. "Aim for the Roses", is an avant-garde double bass suite that tells the true story of Canadian daredevil Ken Carter, and his 1976-79 quest to jump one mile over the St. Lawrence River in a rocket car. "Aim for the Roses is, to say the least, a singular achievement." -The Victoria Times Colonist. "Haney makes his own unpromising leap, to tell a bizarre story bizarrely. Unlike Carter, however, Haney succeeds." -The Globe and Mail. ‎"Aim for the Roses manages to strike the perfect balance between utterly amazing and completely f-ing ridiculous." -The Georgia Straight. When he's not here, Mark's further thoughts on Archie can be found at his blog Archie, Double Bass, Daredevil.