Written by: Matt Molgaard
Here’s a confession: I’ve never read an Archie comic book in my life, and I’ve read a good 10,000 of them. Okay, that’s not true. I’ve now read some stuff. Afterlife with Archie, the prototypical American teen’s first showdown with the undead, makes me wonder why I’ve prolonged the familiarization with this iconic character. There’s something so ridiculously charming about Archie Andrews and his band of buds that tells me a horror sheen isn’t required to leap into this picturesque existence.
Now don’t get that twisted up, nothing is picturesque in Afterlife with Archie. In fact, it’s hell on earth as the suburb of Riverdale morphs from ideal location to a wall of fire and ghouls. Jughead’s dog, Hot dog is hit by the toolbag known as Reggie Mantle, and passes shortly thereafter. A Pet Sematary inspired resurrection follows (believe it or not, it works), and Jughead gets his dog back. But he doesn’t really want that dog back. It returns as a savage, flesh-eating zombie (Hot) dog, and takes a chunk out of Jughead (yep, Jughead gets it just about immediately!), who then finds himself shambling for the Halloween dance at the local high school. It’s Carrie meets The Walking Dead as chaos erupts. Kids are all but devoured, and the spreading of the zombie plague is in full effect.
Archie is (of course) at the dance, as are his love interests Veronica and Betty. They avoid any bites or scratches, scattering for Veronica’s home, which is basically a fortified mansion. Initially it seems the group can hold up behind closed doors and wait out the craziness. But this seemingly impenetrable fortress threatens to crumble under the weight of countless corpses and Archie and company are forced to flea before escape becomes an impossibility.
There’s nothing that can be deemed ground breaking in these pages. However, Afterlife is such a well-written and beautifully illustrated book that putting it down becomes an impossibility. Once you pick it up, you’re not going to relinquish the death grip until you’ve turned the final page. The color schemes utilized greatly empower artist Francesco Francavilla’s illustrations, which are stunning as it is. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s narration is brilliant, and his knack for combining vintage innocence with contemporary lingo is nothing short of sensational.
Robert Kirkman’s The Waling Dead has long been my favorite zombie graphic novel. That changes today. As much as I adore The Walking Dead (and I do indeed love the book, despite my general lack of love for zombies in printed fiction), Afterlife with Archie just boasts a completely different level of infectiousness. The book transcends great zombie fare. Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla should be insanely proud of this masterpiece.
Order the first collection right here.