Life in Riverdale: Surprisingly Dangerous
Ah, Archie Andrews. The typical American teenager, supreme ladies' man, and unofficial mascot of both the ISB and the Socialist Youth Movement. Known throughout the world as the star of good, fun comics with cover gags--which Mark Waid used to edit, incidentally--that provide laughs even before the comic's been opened.
So why, exactly, does this particular Archie comic feature Betty and Veronica about to be burned alive in a towering five-alarm fire?
Yes, friends, your eyes do not deceive you: That is an Archie comic with the word "Holocaust" on the cover. And yes. It is amazing.
Life with Archie--along with Archie at Riverdale High--was dedicated to more serious adventure stories starring the Riverdale gang that were every bit as over-the-top with danger and melodrama as the other Archie books were with slapstick humor. I mean, really: Archie doesn't just get in trouble at school, he's got a desk with a nameplate on it reserved in detention. And when things go bad, they go hilariously terrible.
I've got a few issues sitting over here that feature stories about a Colonel Parker analog bilking the town for thousands of dollars, Chuck almost going over a waterfall after a boating accident, and a traveling circus attempting to rob the somewhat-surprisingly-existant Riverdale Diamond Exchange. And then there's these two gems.
The first, of course, is "HOLOCAUST!," wherein the gang takes a tour of Mr. Lodge's new factory that is woefully not up to code. A fire mysteriously starts, and Betty and Veronica are trapped on the top floor, surrounded by explosions and gouts of flame that prevent the fire department from rescuing them.
Archie, of course, can't stand to sit by watching his two best girls go up in smoke, and so he and Jughead climb to the roof of an adjacent building and--I swear--zipline across the gap, crashing through a window like Batman. They're able to rig up an impromptu slide, and with Betty thanking God for sparing her life, they escape.
And as a Special Bonus Feature, this issue features a story where a mysterious green box is opened by a construction crew and emits "in essence, an invisible, odorless aura of Satan" that causes immediate aging and decay to everything around it, including people. By which I mean, this:
In case you forgot, this takes place in an Archie comic. Which are usually given to children. Just wanted to clarify that.
Anyway, Archie jacks one of Mr. Lodge's helicopters and takes the box out with a spear-gun (no, really) and everything goes back to normal, but it's never explained what exactly the box is, leaving me sitting there holding a comic book and shouting: "What's in the box!? For God's sake, Archie.. what's in the box?!"
Disconcerting to say the least when you're used to stories about Miss Grundy assigning extra homework, rather than, say, face-melting and severe burns. But it is nothing--nothing--compared to the other one I found. The Archie book so intense that you won't even find it on the Grand Comics Database.
That's right, kids: It's an ISB Exclusive: Life with Archie #165!
I've seen a lot of Archie books in my time, but brother, this is the only one that's ever involved a HOSTAGE SITUATION. It is pure Dave Jackson-level Awesome. Heck, just take a look at how it opens:
Light flashes off a razor's edge as the surgical steel waves slowly back and forth like the sinister head of a deadly cobra! Archie and Mr. Lodge freeze in their tracks! Veronica stiffens in fear! Everybody's got something to lose in this chilling stalemate!
Sweet Christmas. That is the most awesome comic intro I have ever seen, and it's in the running for Most Awesome Thing Ever™.
Mr. Lodge has hired a wood-carver to decorate virtually every wooden surface he owns with his intricate carvings. Unfortunately, the woodcarver's just using his skills to make copies of the Lodge's keys so that he can come back and rob the place blind, although his attempt is foiled by a suspicious Archie who chases him away after dropping Ronnie off from a date. The next day, confident that his cover wasn't blown, the carver returns, only to be confronted by Archie and Mr. Lodge. And that's when things get awesome.
He's a blade-man, man! Veronica's held hostage, dragged off by the woodcarver, who takes the time to throw knives at Mr. Lodge before making his escape while tossing Veronica out of a moving car.
Personally, I was hoping for a scene where Mr. Lodge appears on television with two-million dollars in cash, offering it as a bounty on the head of the man who kidnapped his daughter, but what I got was even better. Archie hops into his jalopy and runs him off the road Transporter 2 style! And he even gets a kiss from Veronica for his troubles.
It's given me high hopes for Jughead's Time Police