Sunday, October 5, 2014

Afterlife with Archie

Last year, I did a week long look at Archie Comics and some of their attempts to diversify their brand of comic books. I did not mention the most dramatic departure they were making, the new series of horror comics, Afterlife with Archie. This series stars the established Archie characters, but it takes them in a much different direction than the typical humor and romance schtick.

This volume collects the first five issues of the comic book series. The plot begins with Jughead's pet Hot Dog being run over by a car. He cannot deal with the loss, so he goes to Sabrina the Teenage Witch for help. She defies her aunts' wishes and resurrects the dog, though she is severely punished for it. In the meantime, Hot Dog is back but he is not right. The monstrous and ravenous canine turns on Jughead, biting him and beginning a contagion that turns Riverdale's citizens into flesh-eating ghouls.

Following the conventions of a zombie movie plot, what is left of the Archie gang holes up in the Lodge mansion, trying to find a way out of town and away from the creatures who want to devour them. Of course, there are complications, such as people who have been bitten but try to hide it as well as selfish moves by people who want to survive at any cost. And, I have to add, the backstories of the main characters get mined in ways that help heighten the drama while also ramping up the creepiness of the whole enterprise. This book might simply be a zombie movie with the Archie cast offered up as sacrificial lambs, but it is also true to the characters, oddly compelling, and well done.

Afterlife with Archie is a collaboration between Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla. Aguirre-Sacasa is a playwright, screenwriter, and author whose major credits include writing for the TV shows Big Love and Glee and co-writing the 2013 remake of Carrie. He has also written a slew of Marvel Comics as well as an Archie meets Glee crossover series. Francavilla is one of the best contemporary noir comics artists, having won the Eisner Award for Best Cover Artist. He has worked on his own series Black Beetle as well as having done Detective Comics and a run of the beautifully rendered Zorro. Both creators speak about their work on Afterlife with Archie in this interview.

All of the reviews I have read about this book have been very complimentary. Andy Wolverton called it a "must read" and added, "Maybe what makes Afterlife with Archie so powerful and compelling is that Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla have taken characters we’ve known and loved for nearly 75 years and have shown us that maybe they’re not as safe as we thought they were." EricJoseph gushed that it is "the best zombie comic on shelves today." J. Caleb Mozzocco wrote that the "basic plot may be B-movie, drive-in fare, but it looks and is told like a Golden Age Hollywood classic," and summed up, "For horror fans, comics fans and horror and comics fans, it’s a must-have."

Afterlife with Archie is rated T for Teen and is published by Archie Comics, who has a preview and more links here.

No comments:

Post a Comment