Review: AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE VOL. 1: ESCAPE FROM RIVERDALE

The first collection of Archie's battle with the undead is available now. Find out what I thought of it in my latest review and let me know your thoughts!

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AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE VOL. 1: ESCAPE FROM RIVERDALE by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla
Collects Afterlife With Archie #1-5
 
I've been a huge fan of Resident Evil video games, novels, and comics since 1998 (we'll ignore those movie "adaptations"), so I was somewhat elated when the pop culture zombie boom started around a decade ago. And it's a corner of the horror genre that's going strong to this day. To be quite honest, I've grown tired of the oversaturation of zombies, though there are rare exceptions. The Walking Dead caught my eye for a short while, but the comics failed to retain my interest after the fifth or sixth trade paperback and I threw in the towel on the snoozefest of a TV show. If you're in the same boat as me, the prescription for your fever is not more cowbell - it's Afterlife With Archie. It's a clever and fresh yarn spun by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, chock full of dynamite dialogue and scenes that will actually make you care. The greatest noir style artist in comics today, Francesco Francavilla, provides beautiful, yet sometimes grotesque images and creates an atmosphere thicker than any malt Archie has ever consumed.
 
The terror is unleashed as follows: one night, Reggie accidentally runs over Hot Dog (Jughead's dog) with his car. In an absolute stroke of genius, Hot Dog is resurrected by Sabrina The Teenage Witch, who can't help but feel empathetic toward Jughead's loss. This is where it all goes South of Heaven. Necromancy doesn't always work out the way you want it to (Sabrina may want to take her copy of the Necronomicon back to Barnes and Noble) and Hot Dog bites Jughead, turning him into Riverdale's first zombie. He eventually crashes a dance at the high school and effectively spreads the contagion. Classic Archie tropes like Betty and Veronica fighting over taking Mr. Andrews to the dance - albeit in a more mature fashion - are still present, but are quickly turned on their head. An outbreak always has to start somehow, but when it happens to beloved characters, it really counts for something.
 
As I said, this book deals with mature themes, even if only implied. I think we all know what was going on with those Blossom siblings! On a side note, Mr. Lodge looks like Jim Gordon, but I hear Carter Pewterschmidt from Family Guy when I read for him. They kind of seem like comparable guys.
 
Anyway, let's get back on track. Some of the scenes that evoke the most emotion were originally printed in issue #4. The scenes involving Archie's dog, Vegas, and his father are among the most heartbreaking. They're intelligently set up by showing Archie with his parents when he was a child the day they adopted Vegas. When they eventually started intercutting flashbacks with the present, it really drove it home. Perhaps I was able to invest more in this because my dog bears a striking resemblance to Vegas. The crew eventually does escape from Riverdale when Archie emerges as their fearless leader (I wouldn't call that a spoiler; the book is called "Escape from Riverdale"). I can't wait to see where they head next and what has become of the rest of the world.
 
Supplemental material includes a full gallery of standard, variant, and reprint covers as well as Francacavilla's original interior pencils. I recommend this book for fans of Archie, zombies, Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, the horror genre, and anyone who generally likes the written word. It really is that good. And it's the best zombie comic on shelves today. Score: 9/10
 
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