In a world as richly populated as the Archie Comics, it is difficult to balance cannon and while making new readers comfortable with the characters and world. Author Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla have found a story which balances tradition and introduces new readers in Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale.
Afterlife with Archie follows the entire Riverdale crew; Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and Sabrina. After Jughead’s beloved dog, Hot Dog, is struck dead by a passing car, in his grief, Jughead visits Sabrina who performs a necromancer’s spell. But Hot Dog is not the same, and soon Jughead becomes infected with a zombie disease the night of the Riverdale High School Halloween Dance, providing the perfect backdrop to a zombie apocalypse story.
As someone who does not have an intimate knowledge of the Archie universe, this book provided a great introduction. The amorous tension between Archie, Betty, and Veronica is made apparent, there is a strong sense of community among family and friends and the town is filled with diverse setting. Aguirre-Sacasa is a crisp storyteller with the ability to lay out characters with enormous histories while not intimidating the new reader. It is easy to see how Aguirre-Sacasa has become the Chief Creative Officer of Archie Comics after this breakout hit.
Italian artist Francesco Francavilla’s style melds wonderfully with the dark, brooding nature of a zombie apocalypse. One of the strongest elements of Francavilla’s art is the use of color. Similar to many of his other books, Francavilla utilizes cool and warm tones to illicit calm and fear in the reader; blues and purples dominate cells with the survivors, reds and oranges for the zombie hoards. Also, the use of black to frame the cells gives gloomy overtones. If you’ve seen his work with Scott Snyder on Batman, you will recognize this style.
The trade as a whole is an amazing piece of art. There is a lot of back matter including alternative covers by guest artists including Tim Seeley, Andrew Pepoy, Tito Peña, and Robert Hack. There is also a touching letter from Aguirre-Sacasa introducing Francavilla’s original sketches.
This book is a good-old-fashioned zombie story set in the newspaper funnies. The tone is an homage to the original zombie films of George Romero, with the terror of the nouveau style zombies of Max Brooks. Be prepared to run for you life along with the characters of Riverdale. Not only will traditional Archie fans appreciate the familiarity of the characters, but reader who enjoy darker, apocalypse stories, such as Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead, or other monster books akin to Scott Snyder’s American Vampires will feel right at home.
Total Onomatopoeia’s: 4/5 for ingenious retelling of old characters, un-intimidating story for new readers, fantastically appropriate artistic styling, and an overall spooky joy-ride.
Title: Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale
Author: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Publisher: Archie Comics Publication, Inc.
List Price: $17.99