by Ryan Mogge
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Most of Archie 22 takes place in a moment after Betty’s heart stops beating and before the doctors can get it going again. During that second, writer Mark Waid and artist Pete Woods explore what Betty means to several of the people in her life in short memories. Each story is tinged with the pain of the potential loss. Each relationship depicted has its own meaning. The order of stories offers increasingly complex relationships. Waid and Woods show what Betty’s situation triggers for her mother, her friend, her principal, and her ex-boyfriend/best friend/boy next door.
For Mrs. Cooper, her assertion that baby Betty will “always bring us joy” haunts her as she stands by while paramedics try to revive her daughter.
It’s the most explicit connection that Waid makes between the memories and the potential grief. Woods depicts the agony with Mrs. Cooper so well that it immediately dissipates any remaining sweetness from the scene of two sleep-deprived parents fumbling around for a late night diaper change. This relationship is the most elemental. While we don’t have all the details, we can sketch out what a life without Betty would be for her mother.
Rather than fully bringing us back to the hospital, we transition to Veronica’s upset countenance. Veronica’s memory and its meaning is a little less underlined. As the stories play out, the specificity of what the death of Betty will mean is muted. Veronica’s memory of a friend who offers kindness and requests nothing ends with her saying a quiet “owe you?” which will never be repaid should Betty not wake up. Weatherbee remembers Betty’s honesty and kindness, but how do you define the loss of a bright student? Certainly it’s not an easy answer.
Waid and Woods spend the most time with Archie’s memory. We see Little Archie and Little Betty’s first meeting and how quickly the dynamics are established. Who is Archie if he doesn’t have Betty watching his back and willing to go on adventures with him? On a beautiful splash page, we get a montage of Betty & Archie, leading up to the accident and Archie’s face as he watches Betty in the hospital.
In the end, Betty survives the crash, but her paralysis signals that things in Riverdale will be changed. By having the reader live in that second of doubt for an entire issue, Waid and Woods both deepened our understanding of established relationships and how they may evolve given the experience of believing the worst for an instant.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?