After 73 years on this earth, Archie Andrews is dying on Wednesday, taking a bullet meant for a friend, Kevin Keller. Keller, an openly gay U.S. senator whose big issue is gun control, is targeted by an assailant whose identity Archie Comics is keeping a secret until the latest issue of Life With Archie — the version of the long-running Archie comic that follows the Riverdale gang as adults — hits the stand Wednesday.
Archie debuted in 1941 as a wholesome teenager, and some people are probably surprised that he is still around, much less a grown-up in the Life With Archie series. Chris Cummins, the self-proclaimed "resident Archie expert" at Den of Geek, notes that though Archie is about to die, his teenage self will live on in other iterations of the Archie story. So might writer Paul Kupperberg's efforts to make the Archie universe's "archetypal characters into realistic and relatable figures dealing with real world problems like gun violence," Cummins adds, before eulogizing:
Not to be too grandiose, but this demise is a fitting and tonally perfect tribute to a character who has always put his friends first. This is a publicity stunt for sure, but one with heart that will have permanent ramifications. [Den of Geek]
Archie isn't the only comic book character to meet an early end, but as Archie Comics publisher Jon Goldwater notes, he's perhaps the first non-superhero comic hero to be killed off. "When you wound him, he bleeds," Goldwater tells The Associated Press. "We hope by showing how something so violent can happen to Archie, that we can — in some way — learn from him."