August 12, 2014

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Afterlife With Archie Volume 1


Written by Robert Aguirre-Sacasa
Illustrated by Francesco Francavilla
Published by Archie Comics

I am not a fan of zombies. At all. The sub-genre has been done for me for years now. Not to say I don’t enjoy the occasional viewing of 28 Days Later or Shawn of the Dead, just that the entire concept of the walking dead got old pretty quick as far as I’m concerned. Another thing I’ve never been a fan of was Archie Comics. I read Archie books in dentist’s offices and lines at the supermarket, but that was it. The characters seemed bland and they never appealed to me. So naturally I would have no interest in a book that combines two things that I am ambivalent at best about, right?

Wrong.

Although I am not into zombies, I am most definitely a horror nerd. Afterlife With Archie surprised me by being not only superbly drawn and written, with atmospheric art by Francesco Francavilla and an engaging script from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, but by also being a good horror story. These are characters that for decades have been almost synonymous with fun that is so clean it’s boring being suddenly thrown into a situation where they are quite literally being showered with the blood of their friends as they watch them be devoured by their other, now undead friends. It sounds like a gimmick I know, but I can honestly say that it is one of the best horror stories to come out in the last several years at least.

Francavilla’s art is quite easily the best part of the book. He uses a muted color palette as well as obvious mastery of his craft to give a satisfyingly creepy tone to every page. The layouts are consistently dynamic, and often uses old ideas in new and interesting ways. He does an excellent job of taking the brightly colored citizens of Riverdale (as well as the city itself) and turning them into characters appropriate of the story they’re now in. He works very well with Aguirre-Sacasa, who transforms a somewhat gimmicky idea and gives it depth and feeling, as well as a plot that is not only completely logical but remains interesting throughout. Aguirre-Sacasa also manages to remain on the tasteful end of the gore spectrum, eschewing classic zombie killing action in favor of some rather more believable reactions to the apocalypse, as well as characters with real, often heartbreaking emotions.

Afterlife With Archie was not the book I expected it to be. Rather, it was a thousand times better, convincing me not only to buy every subsequent volume, but that Archie is a company to keep an eye on. If you’re looking to see Jughead get his head blown off while the streets of Riverdale run red with the blood of the damned, then maybe this  book isn’t for you. However, if you are a fan of horror, zombies, reimaginings of your favorite childhood characters that don’t involve Michael Bay, or good comics in general, then by all means pick up Afterlife With Archie.