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No more 'Life with Archie,' comic teaches 'a lesson about gun violence'

LOS ANGELES--For most of Archie Andrews' life, the red-headed comic book icon's biggest quandary was whether he liked Veronica or Betty.

The character's impending death comes in Wednesday's installment of “Life with Archie,” a spin-off series that centers on grown-up renditions of Archie and his Riverdale pals. It brings a bold conclusion to Archie Comics' four-year-old modern makeover of the squeaky-clean, all-American character.

Freckle-faced Archie will meet his demise when he intervenes in an assassination attempt on Senator Kevin Keller, Archie Comics' first openly gay character, who's pushing for more gun control in Riverdale. Archie's death, which was first announced in April, will mark the conclusion of the “Life with Archie” series.

“I think Archie Comics has taken a lot of risks in recent years, and this is the biggest risk they've taken yet,” said Jonathan Merrifield, a longtime Archie fan who hosts the Riverdale Podcast about all things Archie. “If it shakes things up a little bit, and people end up checking it out and seeing what's going on in Archie Comics, it will be a risk that was smartly taken.”

While casual fans likely still associate Archie with soda shops and sock hops — and that's still holds true for the very much alive teenage character in the original “Archie” series — Archie was thrust into adulthood with the launch of “Life with Archie” in 2010. The series kicked off after alternate futures were envisioned where the love-struck do-gooder married both Veronica and Betty.

Over the past four years, storylines in the more socially relevant series aimed at adult Archie fans have included Kevin's marriage to his husband, the death of longtime teacher Ms. Grundy, Archie love interest Cheryl Blossom tackling breast cancer and Jughead and friends dealing with financial struggles.

It's been a shift not unlike other changes in the modern comic book landscape, where Spider-Man's alter ego is a multiracial teenager and Wonder Woman wears pants.

“Every few years, we see a comic book tackling an issue that could be considered provocative,” said Dave Luebke, owner of Dave's Comics in Richmond, Virginia. “It's interesting that the ending of `Life with Archie' involves multiple social issues, but it's not surprising.” (Luebke sold his rare 1942 “Archie” No. 1 comic book in 2009 for US$38,837 at a Dallas auction.)

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and several Archie fans praised Archie Comics' decision to have the character sacrifice himself to save Kevin, who is depicted in “Life with Archie” as a married military veteran turned senator.

“In recent years, 'Life with Archie' has become one of the most unique books on the shelves by using its characters to address real world issues — from marriage equality to gun control — in a smart but accessible way,” said Matt Kane, GLAAD's director of entertainment media. “Though the story is coming to a close, we look forward to seeing Kevin and Archie's stories continue in their remaining titles.”

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