Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Colorist: Francesco Francavilla
Release Date: October 9, 2013
If you're a fan of Archie or a fan of horror, you should do yourself a favor. If you're a fan of both, I can only imagine...
Confession time, this is my first time reading anything by Archie Comics. Knowing that these characters have their roots going all the way back to the 1940s I was pretty intimidated going into Afterlife with Archie, a spin-off series from Life with Archie that began last year. The multiple series are set in Riverdale and follow the teenage lives of Archie and his peers. They're actually largely inspired by the Andy Hardy series of films starring Mickey Rooney. My one piece of familiarity was with Sabrina (y'know, that "teenage witch"). I was surprised to learn she's a character from Archie Comics as I only knew her from the Melissa Joan Hart television show, a crucial part of my childhood.
As luck would have it, the issue begins with Sabrina being visited by the unfortunately dubbed Jughead. He holds his dying/dead dog in his arms and wonders if there's anything her seasoned witch aunts could do. When that fails Sabrina practices a wicked bit of necromancy (FrankenWeenie much?), for which she is punished by her Aunties - they take on horrifying ghoulish forms on that page. The next day the reanimated dog returns to Jughead and takes a bite out of his arm, thus commencing the zombie apocalypse for Riverdale.
This first issue is chock-full of film (especially horror) and other pop culture references. Betty and Veronica, apparently in an eternal contest over the affection of our all-American teen, fight over who is taking Archie to the school's Halloween dance by revealing what they're thinking of wearing (sexy nurse versus one of the Hitchcock blondes). There's more fun to be found in the ongoing conversations between two of Archie's classmates as they argue over who would win in a fight between Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. Take a wild guess who they show up at the Halloween party dressed as.
The comic's artwork is by Francesco Francavilla, who has a mastery of decisive color tone in every single panel. From the dark purple during the midnight incantation to the warm sunrise a school hallway rendezvous, so much is established by the background choice of paint. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote the story. He is clearly having fun with the established cast of characters, and even though I knew nothing about them, they still felt like old friends. That could only mean that Aguirre-Sacasa has a knowledgeable handle on the universe and a knack for brining them to life.
Afterlife with Archie boasts an incredible first issue. The town and its people are brought to life before they'll inevitably be brought to life again once this contagion spreads. If you're a fan of Archie or a fan of horror, you should do yourself a favor. If you're a fan of both, I can only imagine... It reminds me of what Undead Nightmare achieved as an expansion for Red Dead Redemption. Though I suppose Marvel Zombies would be a more apt comparison. Page 1 reads, "This is how the end of the world begins..." I had no idea that an apocalypse would be such a joy to flip through!