Archie #24 Puts Your Heart Through the Ringer, But Leaves You With A Smile

by James Ferguson

After the events of “Over the Edge”, the town of Riverdale is trying to get back to normal. That’s tough to do when the heart and soul of the place, Betty Cooper, is confined to a wheelchair with no feeling in her legs. Her friends and family are doing what they can to help, but it’s a trying experience for all involved. It’s particularly tough on Archie and Reggie as they’re the reason Betty is in the wheelchair in the first place. It was their drag race she was trying to break up that sent her car rolling. Between the two of them, it’s tough to see who has it worse.

Archie has a few things working against him, but at least he’s not in jail. The kid feels bad enough that one of his best friends is going through this and he’s partially to blame. To make matters worse, he hasn’t seen her since she woke up from her coma. He’s been super grounded to the point where he can’t go anywhere aside from school and he can’t even use the internet. Betty’s parents want nothing to do with him or the rest of his family.

That sounds harsh at first, but you have to remember that their little girl just had her future ripped away. All of the hopes and dreams they’ve had for Betty have been destroyed. It’s not just the idea of walking her down the aisle one day. With all the medical bills and costs for renovating their house to make it wheelchair accessible, they’re broke. This is a very trying time for the Coopers and they have their clumsy next door neighbor and that annoying Mantle kid to blame for all of it.

Reggie’s future is uncertain, however he has a painful ride in a police car. He’s not physically hurt. It’s all emotional. The guilt of what he’s done has to be hanging on him heavily. It doesn’t help that the entire town hates him and not just because of his usual antics. It’s hard to feel sorry for him because Reggie is always a jerk, but even he doesn’t deserve some of the heartache he’s been put through.

Betty shows an unbelievable strength throughout all of this. She is not giving up on herself, showing incredible determination and optimism. Any normal person would be reeling from depression right now, but she is facing the world with her head held high. This is shown in a great sequence on one of the first pages where Betty politely refuses help from others. Everyone is quick to offer assistance and she kindly replies with “I can do it on my own, but thank you.” It’s pretty inspiring.

Artist Audrey Mok showcases the sympathetic feeling of the townspeople in their concerned facial expressions. They all look at Betty with a mix of pity and sadness. Why did something so horrible have to happen to such a good person? Mok says so much with small glances. There are some panels where she conveys the same amount of emotion, context, and feeling that a novelist would take pages and pages to explain.

This is especially true in a powerful sequence with Betty alone in her home trying and struggling to shift from her wheelchair to her bed. It’s presented without a single piece of dialogue or narration, but speaks volumes. It shows Betty’s strong will that she’s shown everyone else as well as the frightened inner self that she’s kept hidden since the accident.

Despite all this pain and sorrow, Archie #24 ends on a moment of hope. Writer Mark Waid puts your heart through the ringer only to leave you with a smile. These characters are real and genuine, as if I’ve known them my entire life. This is why they’ve stood the test of time.

Archie #24 is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.