Is [SPOILER] alive? Mark Waid talks us through it.

By Christian Holub
June 21, 2017 at 05:00 PM EDT

Death is not a common sight in Archie Comics. CW viewers know that, because it was Jason Bloom’s death that fueled the entire first season of Riverdale. The current ongoing Archie series has mostly shied away from the darker and grittier elements of Riverdale while still updating the Archie Comics cast for the 21st century. That made the events of this week’s issue, Archie #21, utterly shocking.

(Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Archie #21. Proceed at your own risk!)

Archie writer Mark Waid teased EW back in March that in the three-part “Over the Edge” story line, “one of the kids looks death in the eye — and death doesn’t blink.” In the first installment last month, readers saw Archie Andrews pressured into a drag race by longtime rival Reggie Mantle. Everything seemed fine until Archie’s best friend and ex-girlfriend Betty Cooper caught wind and tried to intervene at the last minute to save Archie, resulting in a three-car crash that sent at least one off the edge of the road. Archie #21 follows up on that cliffhanger by checking in with various Riverdale residents (Jughead, Veronica, Dilton, and Moose) as they received the terrible news. When they all converged on the hospital by issue’s end, readers found it was none other than Betty who was clinging to life.

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EW caught up with Waid to talk us through this major cliffhanger. Find our quick Q&A below, and then keep reading for a full statement from Waid, which explains Betty’s dilemma in the greater context of comic books (which he knows as well as anyone, having written and edited comics for almost three decades). We also have an exclusive sneak peek at the covers for Archie #22 and one very emotional two-page spread. Check out all of that below.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I think the structure of this issue works really well. Why did you decide to check in with various Riverdale residents as they found out the bad news?
MARK WAID: I wanted to show the urgency with which everyone would react to the news while, frankly, prolonging the suspense as long as possible — not to be cruel or manipulative, but to demonstrate how everyone in Riverdale would easily drop whatever they’re doing to be at her side.

What would you say Betty means to Riverdale?
She’s the heart of Riverdale, which not coincidentally is the title of our next arc. One of the biggest reasons we had for telling this story at all was to show our readers — and our characters — just exactly why that is. Betty’s such a giving person that it seems like half the town depends on her, whether it’s to volunteer at the animal shelter or to read to the blind or to deliver meals or to coach Pee Wee soccer and so forth. Now she’s out of action for the foreseeable future, and her absence will create a void that, it’s gonna take the entire gang to fill, if they can.

This is a serious situation, and there are police in the hospital. What can you tease about the consequences of this drag race for Archie, Reggie, and everyone else?
The cops tell Archie he’s in the clear — certainly punished for participating in the race, but he stopped in plenty of time to avoid hitting Betty. Unfortunately, telling Archie he’s not responsible for this and getting him to believe it are two different things.

Reggie, not so much. As we showed way back in issue 7, there’s some sort of past criminal record, expunged, hanging over his head, and that plus this equals, at the very least, handcuffs. That’s presuming that the cops can get to Reggie before someone exacts revenge on him for what he’s done.

Archie Comics
Archie Comics

Check out a full statement from Waid below. 

This isn’t new. Serialized drama, especially in comics, is all about perception of change. Archie, like Superman or Batman, is going to change but always revert, in some way, back to his iconic setup. It’s about the journey – the story. That’s what we’ve been saying since we announced the book. So, while Betty will face death, deal with the ramifications of this crash and while we will show how her friends respond to the tragedy, I think it’s safe to say things will shake down and we’ll eventually get back to the status quo people have come to know. But it’s about the story. It’s about getting there and the journey to and from these dramatic moments. I’m not spoiling anything by saying Betty doesn’t die and that she’ll eventually get better. That’s comics 101. Things change, things swerve back and then change again. But it’s about the story and how we go from here to there.

Archie Comics