Archie #20 Review: Start Your Engines?

Warning: This contains spoilers for the end of the issue.

This isn't your standard Archie Comics, Inc. publication. The reason is obvious, so I'm not going to beat around the bush. Someone is going to die, or at least get seriously injured. Death has come to the Archie universe before, notably in the Life With Archie soap opera-style comic, wherein Archie died while taking an assassin's bullet for Kevin Keller. (For context, the series took place in two alternate worlds where Archie had either married Betty or Veronica. The penultimate issue depicted his death in both timelines, where Kevin Keller had become a senator.)

Technically, the Archie Horror imprint issues also have deaths, but they outright aren't in a "what could have been" scenario. Strictly speaking, the only technical instance of a death that actually affected future events would, again, be in Life With Archie, with Mrs. Grundy's death by cancer. Archie's murder would count, but that was near the end of the series. As such, this storyline will be momentous for more than a few reasons.

As it is, the first installment does a fine job of setting up for the actual event itself. For the most part, it's devoted to putting the pieces together. Reggie is reintroduced, being a general bullying jerk. It's mostly shown through a series of lighter moments, which helps to reinforce the extreme whiplash near the end of the issue.

Oh boy, Reggie's going all PG-13! Or R, depending on how dirty your mind is.

A slightly smaller interlude also briefly sheds more light on the revelation that Mr. Blossom isn't actually Cheryl and Jason's father. I admit, I'm more interested in the current arc, but I appreciate that it's not being completely ignored. It might even tie-in to the rest of the arc, I'm not completely sure. Still, it does show that the (fake) Blossom parents might just be as manipulative as their Riverdale counterparts.

In any case, the setup to the race is interesting, if a tad too long. It's the last page that has the true meat to the story, with Reggie, Betty, and Archie's respective cars crashing over a railing and plunging to a mysterious fate. Who's dead? Who's alive? Maybe no one's dead, just quite yet. After all, the cover has a heart monitor at the top and while the victim's heart still seems in peril, it hasn't given out yet. (On a side note, I love the heart monitor motif for all three covers.) If you'll hear me out, I have a theory. The August solicitation for Archie #23 tease the fallout, and one particular cover has Archie gritting his teeth, as if in pain.

I predict that Archie will sustain grievous injuries in the crash, possibly affecting his mobility. The cover brings to mind someone holding on to parallel bars in an attempt to strengthen their legs. Perhaps Archie is using them to regain his strength. Again, it's only speculation, and a half-baked one at that. It could just as easily be Archie in a hospital room, sadly mourning a death. We'll see as the story continues.

Archie #20 is written by Mark Waid, drawn by Pete Woods, and lettered by Jack Morelli. You can find it at your local comic book shop.

Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.