Just in time for Halloween, Archie Comics has released an adult-oriented series about a zombie apocalypse in Riverdale, and shattered the psyches of 9-year-old girls everywhere.
Title: Afterlife with Archie #1
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Fracavilla
First Published: October 9, 2013
“On the Riverdale/Greendale border, at the Witching Hour, that darkest hour… in the dead of night,” a distraught Jughead Jones arrives at the Spellman stoop, carrying the corpse of his pal, Hot Dog. He seeks Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. He wants her to summon forbidden magic and restore his dead pet to life. Her aunts warn of dire consequences, but she’s young, and ol’ Jug moves her adolescent heart.
This won’t end well.
Francavilla’s artwork sells it. Dark colours, washed out like the small town landscape after set of sun, bring us into an almost-familiar world, with stylized, though more realistic versions of familiar characters from childhood.
Afterlife with Archie is fine, as far as it goes, but it brings nothing new. It even fails to rise above current controversies over the depiction of women in comic books. Sabrina brings evil into the world, while Betty and Veronica exchange bitchy barbs that sound like they were written by a middle-aged man.
Artwork: 6/6 Covered under “High Points.”
Story: 4/6 By the time issue #1 (available in four variant covers– are you surprised?) concludes, we have at least two zombies wandering Riverdale, Mr Weatherbee (and possibly Miss Grundy) has been killed in a scene lifted deliberately from Night of the Living Dead, Reggie Mantle has outdone himself in dark deeds, and Veronica Lodge and Betty Cooper continue to squabble over Archie.
The Halloween dance has commenced. The door opens. Everyone applauds Jughead’s costume. Of course, we know he’s not wearing one.
Characterization: 4/6 The author does have an obvious affection for these characters, and they may develop with the tale.
Emotional response: 4/6 The story contains moments of horror, but I suspect many will read with them with a strong feeling of disbelief. Amused or bemused? YMMV.
Overall: 4/6 we’ve seen forced darkness before. Comics have embraced it, Hollywood keeps serving up oh-so-gritty, “adult” versions of children’s fare, and the internet rushes in to defile what the copyright holders won’t. Archie’s universe has always been elastic, catering to trends and, peachy-keen white-bread reputation notwithstanding, sometimes addressing contemporary issues in ways that superhero comics, for all their posturings of maturity, won’t. Zombies have been shambling all over pop culture in recent years, along with all manner of apocalyptic entertainment. It’s no surprise that Archie’s overseers would approve this project
Afterlife of Archie exists as a fascinating cultural artifact, suitable for older readers during the Halloween season– and as a reminder that, sooner or later, every pop-culture trend will devour itself.
In total, Afterlife with Archie #1 receives 29/42