Afterlife with Archie: Book One collects the first five issues of Archie’s first horror comic that oozes blood, terror and Archie family in-jokes that is sure to make you run from Riverdale.
Don’t run too far, because the art is by Francesco Francavilla and is written by screenwriter Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Glee, Big Love) who’s understanding of the Archie-verse allows him to turn this town on it’s head.
His most spectacular feat is making transforming Jughead into a monster of Freddy or Jason proportions.
Zombies. Halloween Dance. Teenage romance. ‘Don’t go in there’.
The most unsuspecting comics company took a turn for the morbid with this series.
With the announcement of a Sabrina the Teenage Witch series in the same bloody vein, it looks like the supermarket comic crowd is in for a terrifying surprise.
We get reboots, reimaginings, characters from the past brought to the present all of the time.
What Archie Comics has done now, along with bringing back old heroes in the Red Circle Comics line, has continued to make headlines and redefine what it means to treat old properties with the respect they deserve. In this case, it means torching Pop Tate’s, zombifying Riverdale and forcing our hero Archie Andrews to use his skills to save the day.
Who knew that sneaking into the Lodge pantry so many times to make hearts over Veronica’s head appear would actually turn into valuable survival skills when the Zombie Apocalypse hits.
While certainly taking cues from what makes Kirkman’s The Walking Dead magnum opus, leaning heavily on what it takes to survive when zombies take over, there is so much more that Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla are able to accomplish here.
The familiarity with how Hiram Lodge, Moose, Betty, Ethel and Reggie are supposed to act and interact is filmed through a David Lynch filter and paced like a John Carpenter movie.
The purposefully limited palette, deep browns, cool blues, orange & blood reds, not unlike what we’ve seen in Francavilla’s Black Beetle pulp comic, set a tone. Most of the story is told at night.
By setting up Jughead’s dog, Hot Dog, as the resurrected patient zero of the zombie outbreak, the story starts your heart going and there are many W-T-F moments in the first issue! Sabrina suffers the consequences of bringing Hot Dog back to life, and soon everyone does.
Like all good horror movies —or even The Karate Kid— the big costume party at the school is where the action spreads like a spark to the flame. Everyone thinks Jughead’s costume is amazing until they realize it is very real, and not rabies!
The cattiness between Betty and Veronica is played for laughs but is very subtle, and mostly about their outfits! Hiram Lodge, owner of the mansion on the highest point in Riverdale becomes the Thomas Wayne of the situation, protecting the kids from the masses of flesh eating ex-friends.
At his side is Smithers, who, like Alfred, knows all of the security measures and technology in the house and adeptly controls it. The only culinary joke I’ve seen in comics about coq au vin bubbles just below the surface without knocking you over the head. Alfred and Smithers — butlers that can break balls!
Fans of the Pizza Dog in Hawkeye get a few nice pages from the dog’s perspective, as Archie’s pet pal Vegas gets a chance to shine and help out it Archiemaster.
All throughout these five issues are great interactions between the cast members. Reggie challenges Kevin Keller on his sexuality, only to receive part of Kevin’s military training as reward. Ethel and Moose have a moment. A zombie moment! In the pool. With the pool cover.
When it comes down to it, this isn’t The Walking Dead guest Starring The Archies.
What is really happening here is something way more special than that, a step into the dark with normally happy and smiling friends. By introducing the supernatural, zombies, perhaps vampires and definitely witches into the mix Archie Comics can grow and attract a new audience.
This continued effort from editorial, backed up with smart writers and one of my personal favorite working artists has me 100% sold on an idea that started as a variant cover for Life with Archie #23.
By referencing everything from Night of the Living Dead through to the inherent creepiness of Disney princesses and The Exorcist, this isn’t another zombie comic.
Afterlife with Archie is an introduction to a whole new afterworld. If we survive, we can see where it takes us!