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.
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.
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 left; 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.