Afterlife With Archie #1

I wasn’t encouraged when Afterlife With Archie was first announced, since I’m not a fan of zombies, and blending that type of monster with teenage hijinks seemed to indicate the publisher was a bit desperate for attention.

Afterlife With Archie #1 cover

Now that the first issue is out, though, I have to say, it’s a pretty good read. Mostly because the kids shown here feel more like teens than the usual Archie stereotypes. Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Archie Meets Glee, the planned Archie movie) knows teens, and the ones here are, if not actually three-dimensional, a bit more realistically emotional than usual.

The whole thing starts, in a plot reminiscent of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, when Jughead’s pet Hot Dog gets run over. He goes to Sabrina the Teenage Witch to get help, but it’s too late. Except not — while she can’t heal the dog, she’ll raise it from the dead. But it comes back wrong, and … more on that next issue.

In the meantime, though, the kids are getting ready for the Halloween dance. Betty and Veronica’s sparring over Archie has a real bite to it, for once, and Reggie and Jughead display various shades of grief and concern.

Afterlife With Archie #1 variant cover

The art, by Francesco Francavilla, is moody and expressive, with closeups hitting the tension. The restricted color palette, mostly red and black, adds to the suspense. And you have to see Veronica in costume as Vampirella!

I didn’t like everything about this story. The way Sabrina’s written out, for example — she has to get the plot going but then it would be inconvenient to have her stick around and be able to do anything else — smacks of plot heavy-handedness. I knew I wouldn’t like her portrayal, though, when I saw the marketing had the writer talking about how she always gets spells wrong, which demonstrates ignorance of the character.

As you might gather from one of the variant covers (shown right; there are three, plus the standard), Archie’s aiming a bit older with this one, rating it (on the back cover) “teen+” for “violence and mature content”. It’s not often we see Betty in see-through negligee in official Archie titles.

Overall, this issue, like many Archie comics, doesn’t do much new. Instead, it translates familiar items (a fad, one might even say) to the familiar setting. But it does that well, and Archie fans will appreciate seeing the characters drawn with skill and spookiness.

21 Responses to “Afterlife With Archie #1”

  1. Arion Says:

    Looks like this will be the first Archie comic I’ll read in my life. A friend of mine is giving me the first issues so I’ll have the chance to read them.

  2. Anthony Says:

    Maybe the writer’s influenced by the Sabrina sitcom’s portrayal of her, where she does often see spells backfire?

  3. Johanna Says:

    Oh, could be. And I can see the need for that kind of plot — it would bother me less, though, if we saw more of the character regularly, so she could be shown competently as well.

  4. James Schee Says:

    It was a good read. I still don’t like the idea though. But with quality creators it was a good read. I think I’d lke it better if it was Archie character archetypes, like the Criminal series had a little while back.

  5. jfire Says:

    The Archie line is among the few comics appropriate to and seemingly intended for younger readers. It’s disappointing that the characters are being taken out of context this way for the amusement of older readers who ought to be too mature for this sort of silliness. Why not leave the characters alone? I’ve nothing against comics intended for older audiences, but why not use original characters instead of missing with old ones?

  6. Anthony Says:

    Admit I’m not interested in this title either (not exactly a huge zombie fan)…

    @Johanna: There’s a new Sabrina cartoon debuting on The Hub this Saturday, which involves her using her powers in a more adventure-themed tone. It seems to have taken a few cues from the Sabrina manga (Shinji… or someone with his name… is in this series). Sabrina also still appears in reprints in the Archie digests (Betty and Veronica’s title).

  7. Johanna Says:

    James, funny you should mention Criminal: The Last of the Innocent, since I thought about it as well — the look is very similar, very noir-influenced.

    JFire, according to Tim O’Shea, this title is comic shop-only, which I didn’t realize. I think that puts their labeled mature content in a different light, since the audience is much more likely to know exactly what they’re buying.

    Anthony, I’ve got the Sabrina cartoon set up on my DVR. We’ll see what it looks like!

  8. jfire Says:

    I get that the comic is intended for older readers. But why? Why would any adult want to read a comic where characters intended for children are placed in a “mature” context? The whole thing makes me a little queasy. Really, what’s the enjoyable aspect to this? On the surface, the displacement of characters — putting them in this seemingly inappropriate context — is humorous. But isn’t the joke pretty thin and unsophisticated?

  9. Johanna Says:

    You’ve just called most of the output of DC and Marvel into question. :) Clearly, many people get entertainment from seeing adult stories using children’s characters (Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law also comes to mind).

  10. jfire Says:

    I realize this is so, but the question in my mind is “why?”

  11. Johanna Says:

    Because our culture no longer 1) has a shared idea of what being “grown up” means and 2) wants to stay as young as it can as long as it can? Dunno. If I was going to study the phenomenon from a pop culture focus, I’d probably start with video games, but comics would be a close second as exhibiting this criteria.

    Alternately, it could be as simple as “I love this and I don’t want to let it go, so I’m going to tell stories with these characters as long as I can.”

  12. jfire Says:

    you’re probably right. It strikes me as a sort of emotional/social retardation.

    I have kids, so that puts things in another light. I think it’s too bad young children can’t pick up just any Batman and Spider-Man comic. My heyday of reading superhero comics was probably age 10-15. The comics I read weren’t kiddie — this was the late Bronze Age — but also grim for the sake of it and completely self-referential. I like re-reading that stuff, and reading stuff I missed. I like some current superhero stuff, which doesn’t seem that much different from the sort of stuff I enjoyed as a kid: Daredevil, Superior Spider-Man, etc. But the “Dark Knight” model of screwing with characters leaves me cold. If I want something adult and “mature” I look at something other than superheroes for it. Superheroes are for kids. Or should be.

  13. Johanna Says:

    Ah, well, that’s a touchy subject. I can’t say I disagree with you, but many people will.

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