Book: “Afterlife with Archie (Vol.1): Escape from Riverdale” by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Francesco Francavilla (Ill.)
Publishing Info: Archie Comics, June 2014
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description: When Jughead’s beloved pet Hot Dog is killed in a hit and run, Jughead turns to the only person he knows who can help bring back his canine companion—Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Using dark, forbidden magic, Sabrina is successful and Hot Dog returns to the land of the living. But he’s not the same… and soon, the darkness he brings back with him from beyond the grave begins to spread, forcing Archie and the gang to try to escape Riverdale! Collects issues 1-5 featuring the first storyline “Escape from Riverdale” from the new ongoing TEEN+ comic book horror series Afterlife with Archie.
Review: When I was fresh off finishing up “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: The Crucible”, I was doing some research into Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and the comics that he has done. I think he’s a really fun writer and that he has a great feel for horror along with tongue in cheek undertones. I had heard of “Afterlife with Archie” in passing, the first horror comic from Archie Comics, but hadn’t really thought about picking it up. When I found out that Aguirre-Sacasa wrote that one as well, it was a no brainer. Like his take on Sabrina, he takes the originally wholesome and All American comic tale with familiar characters and puts them in a horrific situation, pulling out all the stops and not holding back. In this comic, we see the beloved students of Riverdale High and the town of Riverdale itself besieged by a zombie apocalypse, led by everyone’s favorite slacker Jughead Jones. I mean, come on. It’s perfect.
I went through a phase where I read “Archie” comics, and I had the usual feelings for the characters that 90s Archie Comics wanted the reader to feel. I loved Betty, hated Veronica (though arguably it depends on the reader when it comes to your preference. For the record I quite like Veronica too now), and adored Jughead. I was ambivalent to Archie, because even as a third grader I knew that he wasn’t worth Betty OR Veronica’s time. But I read and liked the comics enough that I can attest that, like in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, the hearts of the characters are all in the place they should be, never betraying their ultimate personalities in spite of the fact they aren’t in a typical “Archie” story. Aguirre-Sacasa is so talented that he still keeps them all in character, so it doesn’t read like a bad fan fiction at all, but part of the “Archie” canon, just maybe in an alternate universe. He also is able to expand upon the characters beyond the usual tropes that limit them otherwise. Betty is still the good girl next door, but she has tenacity as well as neuroses. Veronica is still the spoiled rich girl, but her backstory and her relationship with her father and her butler Smithers make her more well rounded and complex. Archie is still Archie at this point, but Archie is the one character (outside of Jughead, who is a zombie now) that I am fine with him staying his usual boring self. Because it’s never really been about Archie Andrews, but rather his friend group, and seeing them go beyond themselves in an effort to survive a zombie horde is genius and highly enjoyable.
That isn’t to say that it isn’t as twisted and messed up as “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”. While I don’t think that it goes as far as that comic does, it did have it’s moments of me going ‘Oh my GOD’ with the paths he’s taken a few of his characters on. Specifically, the relationship between Cheryl and Jason Blossom, the snooty and scheming twins who serve as foils to the Riverdale High kids (or, in Cheryl’s case, as another love interest for Archie. SERIOUSLY, how does he have all these awesome ladies chasing after him?!).This was by far the most screwed up deviation from the regular storyline, as Cheryl and Jason seem to have a, uh, CLOSE relationship. I’m pretty much just waiting for them to start singing “The Rains of Castamere” and go full House Lannister on us.
The other storyline that I’m very intrigued by is about two characters from the comics that I don’t even remember, Ginger and Nancy, friends in the usual gang who are having a secret relationship when everything goes down. I knew that “Archie” had introduced Kevin Keller as the first GLBT character that the comics had, and was met with a hugely positive reception (and Kevin is in this too, which I was happy to see as I never got to meet Kevin since he was introduced long after I was done with the series), so I think that it’s great that they’re just continuing to add more diversity with these characters. This is no longer the straight white “Archie” series that I remember, and I’m stoked about that. I’m hoping that Ginger and Nancy get some more focus too, even if I’m feeling like a creeper mentioning the incest twins first. Oops.
I also love the artwork in this series. Francisco Francavilla is channelling old school horror comics with his style, reminding me of “Swamp Thing” and “Tales from the Crypt”. I love the aesthetic, using shadow and vibrant colors alike to their full effects.
I really, really liked “Afterlife with Archie (Vol.1): Escape from Riverdale”. I never thought in a million years that I would be revisiting “Archie” comics at age 31, but I’m all in with this series. It’s like “The Walking Dead” without the full on hopelessness. Because how can it be? It’s twisted and scary, but at the end of the day, the fact that it’s in the world of “Archie” makes it so damn delightful.
Rating 9: A terrific zombie narrative with familiar and well expanded upon characters makes “Afterlife with Archie (Vol.1): Escape from Riverdale” a very fun, and at times very scary, comic.
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