Afterlife with Archie main cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Nothing is more impressive than someone creating an original work that makes you interested in something you were not interested in before.  Even better, when someone creates a new mash-up that brings together two concepts that just can’t go together–like Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Sabrina–and zombies.  Yet they make it work.  A candidate for best single issue comic book this year is Issue #1 of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla’s new series Afterlife with Archie.

It’s so wrong, and yet so right.  I reader Archie Comics as a kid, but I still haven’t been swept up by the zombie thing… until now.  Heavily influenced by the monster comics of Bernie Wrightson, the art in Afterlife with Archie is as good as it gets.  Eisner winner Francavilla’s style is entirely his own, and like his Black Beetle series discussed here at borg.com earlier this year, readers are transported to the vision of the past as seen in Golden Age comic books.  Even the paper and printing on Issue #1 feels like you’re holding a 1940s comic book in your hands.  Francavilla brings together the classic characters of the Archie universe and the creepiness of “how the end of the world begins”.

Like Charlton Comics’ old horror series, Afterlife with Archie is gloomy and bleak and the stuff of nightmares.  Unlike the mainstream Archie books, its concepts are not for younger kids.

Jughead in Afterlife with Archie alt cover

Archie Comics has produced plenty of mash-ups in recent years.  Titles like Archie Meets the Punisher, Archie Meets Glee and Archie Meets KISS.  None remotely compare to Aguirre-Sacasa’s storytelling in this new series.  Not only does he know how to build suspense in the zombie and witchcraft realm, he throws contrast at the reader by pulling heartstrings as Jughead’s dog goes through a Stephen King Pet Sematary experience, and he updates Archie’s high school universe firmly and realistically for today’s reader.   Issue #1 reminds us, like Herman Munster’s Fred Gwynne told us in the movie, “sometimes dead is better.”  Zombies are everywhere today, but none are better than in this new series.

Rarely does top-notch storytelling match top-notch work in a single issue of a comic book.  Francavilla and Aguirre-Sacasa propel the reader into the next level of what comic books can be.  And look for several great alternate covers that make it hard to decide which to pick up.

Archie?  And zombies?  Best book of the year?  It seems improbable and unlikely, but Afterlife with Archie is the real thing, and should be a contender for the Eisners next year.

Check out these book trailers:

A second printing of Issue #1 is scheduled for release in comic book stores November 6, 2013 and Issue #2 is due in stores November 20, 2013.  Don’t miss out on this one–a great Halloween-time read!

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