AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE 1-5
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Publisher: Archie Comics
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche -Ain’t It Cool News)
4 years ago I interviewed Batman Exec Producer Mike Uslan. In addition to his weighty jobs with the Batman movies, Mike was scribing ARCHIE THE MARRIED LIFE.
During the course of our conversation we digressed into a discussion on the comic industry at large. At one point in the conversation we broached the subject of continuity and how all the publishing houses had grown beyond one cohesive universe. Fangeezers lament this fact constantly because of the drastic difference this presented in how we have always read comic books. But when you take a step back, Mike’s words of “different universes for different readers,” makes a lot of sense from the standpoint of broadening readership. How many people read just BATMAN BEYOND because of their love of the cartoon?
Archie has taken a similar mode in recent years, first with the MARRIED LIFE, and now with the zenith of this diversification idea in AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE. Yes, this is a zombie story, but it is a damn well crafted zombie story. In addition, despite the gruesome nature of the tale, Roberto has found a way to still keep the essence of the Riverdale gang while at the same time giving them a feeling of being utterly modern and far more adult than past encounters. They are still staples of American teenage tropes, but the authenticity of the situation and time are never hampered by a need to present an idyllic 1950’s style teenage experience.
In any good zombie story there is always a patient zero, the outbreak monkey if you will. In this instance, it’s actually Jughead’s four-legged friend Hot Dog. Another original twist, this zombie infestation is not the result of science based fiction, but rather mystical dabbling of the dark arts. Basically, after Hot Dog is creamed by a car (which we later find out was driven by Reggie Mantle), Jughead carries the pooch to Sabrina and her aunties for some mystical healing. Sadly, the only thing that can save Hot Dog is a resurrection. As we all learned from Pet Cemetery, undead animals are assholes. NEVER resurrect something that was already 99% feral to begin with, because they are guaranteed to no longer sit for treats.
I won’t do a blow-by-blow of the entire series to date, because the plot beats are secondary to the beautiful highlights of humanity Roberto delivers through his characterization. The authenticity of each moving piece is the true wonder to behold. The Archie universe never felt more alive as it prepares to shuffle loose its mortal coil.
The easiest translation is Jughead; sure he’s always had a big appetite, but never one for brains. Betty and Veronica still bicker, but the stakes are so much higher when Archie truly becomes the last man on earth. The Blossom twins, from the rival town over, not going there…let’s just say these “flowers” are now blossoming in the “attic.” Even Mr. Lodge, whose power and influence never seemed to stretch beyond Riverdale’s idyllic hills, has gained the business acumen, connectivity and tenacity of Donald Trump. At one point he is even able to get POTUS on the horn for a distress call. Even ancillary characters, like a group of backdrop nerds, debate the virtues of horror movies with such authenticity and ribbing I felt like I was reading the TalkBacks on Ain’t It Cool.
Riverdale not only burns in AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE, it also arises from the ashes of our childhood to herald this comic universe as a serious entry into our adult lives. From art to tonality, the book never shies from its mission to be a serious piece of comic booking. Is it for kids? Hellllllll no! But is this a mature thriller that I would call in the vein of, but far better than a CW show. Hellllls yes! Look for the book with number in the coffin.