I would like to start with a little back story here. About me. Que the groaning from your miserable mouth. Now shut up. “BUT I DON’T CARE JUST TELL ME ABOUT THE ISSUE”. Just relax a minute, enjoy the ride, the review WILL HAPPEN (but if you’re a story-time hater, then skip to where I let you know the review begins). You see, Archie has an undeniable soft spot in my heart, although I haven’t read an issue since I was a kid. Archie Digest was my first comic book series. I was obsessed… Although I have no idea why a child who literally just grasped reading independently was attracted to the eternal struggle of high-school love triangles… Flash forward: I’m a twenty something who loves comics, horror movies, kitsch, puns, cheesy one-liners, movie monsters, zombies … All the stuff an upstanding hot-blooded American woman is into. Flash even more forward: Afterlife with Archie is announced. I was besides myself when I heard this was a title that was going to happen, I mean REALLY GOING TO HAPPEN — Archie meets a zombie apocalypse. Literally. I high-fived my inner child. I needed this book months before it was ever released, although I really had no idea what to expect besides zombies + Archie… but that was enough for me. I’ve noticed the resurgence in popularity with Archie lately and I had been hearing good things about Archie Comics as a whole. I was letting myself get stoked, contrary to my usual stance of “cautious optimism”.
I read issue #1… I was in love from the get-go. This was dark, eerie, sometimes-gruesome, and not pandering to the younger audience I typically think of when I think Archie although times have changed, this comic does have a Teen rating, and I haven’t been keeping up with the general direction of Archie Comics lately, so for all I know the tone of Archie could be much different now. It’s everything I could have possibly hoped for this comic to be. This is like an 80s horror flick with all the cheesy, gruesome goodness found in those movies that I, and so many others, love and it’s been set in good ol’ squeaky-clean Riverdale. All the classic Archie characters are present and they’re cracking their silly puns and come-backs, but they’ve been woven into this twisted tale with a gruesome face.
Afterlife with Archie is like fan fiction gone so awesomely right that you can’t help but tell your friends about how off-the-wall fantastic it is.
THE ISSUE 2 REVIEW:
Issue #2 continues where we left off, Jughead arrives at the Halloween dance and chaos ensues once everyone realizes that Riverdale’s resident goof is not in really, really impressive stage makeup… and that his girlfriend was definitely not in on the joke. Veronica provides the main narration for this issue, and as she describes the events of the dance we feel very much like we’re watching a horror movie. There’s a good amount of tension and suspense – the panels, layout, and pacing are all on point. It’s been said before and I’ll say it again, Francesco Francavilla’s style is perfectly suited for this story and this issue contains some of my favorite pages I’ve seen (in any comic) lately. (I’m talking about the first page and the page with the apple, in case you were curious.) He does the coloring as well, and it is perfectly suited for this kind of storytelling – dark and dramatic, high contrast with a limited but bold color palette. Remember Batman: Long Halloween? Remember that chilling, bold artwork that filled you with this sense of intensity and dread? That’s Francavilla’s work. If you enjoyed his style in that, then you’ll want to check out Afterlife with Archie. At the end of issue #2 we’re looking at a bunch of traumatized teenagers facing a zombie apocalypse, after finally finding a place of refuge. Undoubtedly Riverdale is gonna go to hell, things are going to escalate, more beloved characters will die and reanimate, and in the future we’re going to probably see these teens kicking zombie ass. The contrast of these classic clean-cut “golly gosh” characters with actual horror situations is so refreshing, and has you conflicted in the best way possible — You’re not sure how serious you should be taking this whole thing. The answer: As serious as you want to. It’s just a super fuckin’ fun read, so just go with it. To quote the lovely “nurse” Betty Cooper when discussing the fact that a zombie apocalypse that has begun in Riverdale: “Don’t ask questions, just accept it.” This isn’t supposed to be a super complex premise; it’s supposed to be a fun horror comic. The artwork is great, the writing is great, and it feels fresh when you read it although it’s definitely campy (in the good way, not the bad way).
A nice bonus, if you’re into it, is the extra at the end of the issue: a small, additional 6-page horror-thriller story titled The Cat. This originally dates from the 70s and was found in a collection previously thought to be lost. It’s a good way to get your feet wet with some old-school horror comics if you’ve never done so before! If you like old-school horror thriller comics then this is an extra nice treat. In an age where comic books seem to be filling precious space with ads while print prices keep rising … it’s an appreciated gesture when we’re given a little something extra! Stay classy, Archie Comics. I’ll definitely have this in my stack on December 11th, when issue #3 is due to come out.