Zombies. Are. Everywhere. Think for a second and tell me if you can’t recall some recent zombie something-or-other. We have The Walking Dead, both in comic form and T.V. series (my wife is a rabid fan of the show, and so am I), Warm Bodies, a recent zombie flick, World War Z, commercials, survival guides, and oh so much more. It’s everywhere. I can honestly say that I remember a time when zombie awesomeness wasn’t exactly that awesome, or at least it wasn’t as accessible as it is today. I can also say, in all honesty, that my first ever exposure to zombie-mania was in the classic Romero “Night of the Living Dead”, or the one that started it all. That movie scared the excrement out of me then (you like how I did that?), and it still gives me the willies now as it remains to be one of my favorite flicks to watch. Such suspense! Intense tenseness! Nail-biting, slow-moving, flesh-eating zombies! GAH!!!
All of that nonsense brings me to this. Afterlife with Archie is, without a doubt, one of the most unexpected comics in my recent memory, and one of the greatest joys I’ve read in quite a while. Who would have honestly thought that Archie Comics would jump on the zombie bandwagon, let alone do it in a way that is most certainly not campy, geared toward six-year olds, or have that classic Archie art style? Nobody, that’s who! Well, except for the two guys who made this AWESOMENESS happen! Let’s not wait any longer, shall we? Get that sweet little image of Betty, Veronica, Jughead, or any of the other Archie gang members, and hold on to it tight, as we review Afterlife with Archie #1!
I love how this book starts. Blood splattered on black background, with words in red. “This is how the end of the world begins.” Gives me shivers. Anyway, On the borders of Riverdale and Greendale, when the night is at it’s darkest, and most dead, a figure runs through the forest, clutching something in its arms. This person runs up to, and starts banging on the door that houses Sabrina the Teenage Witch and her two aunts. “Nothing good can come of this…” they say, but Sabrina answers the door. To her dismay, it’s Jughead, clutching his mangled dog, Hot Dog, in his arms. Begging and pleading, he asks for help. The Aunts try to help, they really do, but by then it’s too late. Hot Dog is a dead dog, and sometimes dead should stay dead. With his once trusted companion in his arms, Jughead prepares to leave, expressing to Sabrina that the love he shared for his dog is nearly as much as she loves Salem, her very talkative cat. That strikes a cord in her, and as Jughead prepares his goodbyes, Sabrina goes to something she is better off staying way from. Taking the Necrenomicon in her hands (this book shows up EVERYWHERE!), she finds Jughead, and before long, the dog is buried, and a spell is cast. Jughead’s dog will return, but at what cost?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa tells a tale that I think no other person could have done. He takes the world that is Archie Comics, and not only updates it to a very clear today, but twists it completely around and perfectly applies it to the horror genre. It’s stunning how he’s able to set the tone, and keep it set for the remainder of the issue. Archie feels like somebody you’d know from school, Jughead could have been any one of us, Betty and Vernonica are full of life (to pun, or not to pun?), and the rest of the gang, and the town itself feels fresh, welcoming, and alive. Roberto’s script gets it dark where it needs to be, and turns the lights on for us when we need that too, all while still keeping the hair on the back of our necks on end, as the nastiness is out there, just waiting to take a bite out of something, or someone. Roberto’s script is powerful, funny, tense, and horrific, all in one shot. Too much to take? Not at all. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve been this excited about an Archie comic since I discovered my copy of Sonic the Hedgehog #1 was worth a pretty penny.
Now to the artwork. With an Archie comic, fans have come to expect a certain style. Not here. Though the retain generalities, that’s where it ends. Francesco Francavilla has a style all his own, and he makes full use of that here. Lines are straight, with roundness only as an accent. The characters look very modern, and anything undead looks absolutely disgusting. Where a good storyteller needs good artwork to convey his script, Francavilla dominates. Images flow with words, making the story that much more powerful. Visually, I can’t say much more about it, except to state the obvious: It’s extremely well done. Effort was put in here, and it most certainly shows.
Keep this in mind: It’s an Archie Comic, but it’s unlike any Archie Comic you’ve ever read, or seen. When I think of Archie, as I’m sure most of you do, you think of that freckled red-headed kid who has to choose between two hot girls, while his best bud digs on the hamburgers. That’s how I think of it, anyway, and I’d never given an Archie Comic serious thought, until now. It stunned me that the company would even consider this, let alone push it through, but push it through they did, as you’ll get taste of in the Q&A section at the end of the issue, along with some tid-bits from Roberto himself.
Afterlife with Archie has all the makings of a classic. It’s stunning, both visually and with the script, but’s also one helluva fun read. You expect certain things from an Archie Comic, and here, part of that is around, but the rest… Well, the rest is a monster all its own. With well loved, but expertly reimagined characters, a great start to an awesome story, and amazing visuals, Afterlife with Archie needs to be on you pull list. Don’t miss out on what’s sure to be a very talked about series.
Parental Concern: Not for the kiddie Archie fans. This one’s more for the teens and grown-ups.