Teenagers make dumb decisions. This isn’t news. It’s also not something that Archie comics as a whole has ever ignored. Since the relaunch of Archie two years ago, though, those decisions have tended to have more lasting consequences. Whether it’s a tough mayoral race or a #lipstickincident, the choices Archie and his friends make stay with them more than they ever did before. With the conclusion of “Over the Edge” in Archie #22, the consequences of those decisions have never been more permanent.
We found out last issue that it’s Betty Cooper who’s paying the price for Archie and Reggie’s decision to take part in a drag race. Having made her own choice to try and stop them (and potentially save Archie’s life), Betty ended up in a horrific car accident. Now we know the exact cost of all of their choices: after briefly flatlining, Betty is alive, but paralyzed from the waist down.
The reveal is a gut-punch, but it’s the 20-odd pages preceding it that really hurt. Writer Mark Waid and artist Pete Woods give readers a glimpse into each character’s memories of Betty as she flatlined. It didn’t take showing these scenes for readers of the series to understand Betty’s importance to her family and her friends, but showing it really drove home how devastating a loss her death would be. Each of the memory sequences is essentially a three page or less microstory, complete with beginning, middle, and end. It’s a testament to the skills of Waid and Woods that they make pulling this off look as easy as they do. It’s a shame that this is Woods’s last issue on Archie, as he seems to have taken to the characters immediately, giving each of them a wonderful physicality that’s essential for a book where the main character’s something of a klutz. He and Waid make a great team, and hopefully they’ll find another project to work on soon.
“Over the Edge” was billed as a ‘game-changer,’ and ‘the biggest event in Archie history,’ and it certainly lived up to that hype. It’s hard to imagine anything in Riverdale being the same with one of its most prominent characters now wheelchair-bound. The only thing that’s certain is that it’s going to be a fascinating time to be an Archie fan.