Afterlife With Archie, Vol. 1: Escape From Riverdale Review
I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how great the Afterlife With Archie series would become. Originally conceived as a variant cover for issue #23 of Life With Archie magazine, the series helmed by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla has quickly become one of the best horror comics around, and one of Archie Comics’ most successful series ever. Afterlife With Archie, Vol. 1: Escape From Riverdale collects the first five issues of this terrifying comic featuring Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and the rest.
Afterlife With Archie, Vol. 1: Escape From Riverdale begins on a dark autumn night, as Jughead’s beloved pet Hot Dog is struck by a car. Not knowing what else to do, Jughead brings Hot Dog to Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s house (I was not aware this was an Archie character until reading this book). Sabrina and her aunts attempt to heal the dog with their magick powers, but Hot Dog was already lifeless when he arrived, and so there’s nothing that can be done. The witches advise Jughead to make peace with it and say his goodbyes, and chastise him when he asks about the possibility of bringing him back from the dead – necromancy is a blasphemous and dangerous magick that should not be taken lightly.
Sabrina takes pity on Jughead, and completely ignores her aunts’ warnings about the dangers of necromancy. She sneaks out with the book of Necronomicon, and meets Jughead at a nearby riverbank where Sabrina recites the incantation. The following night, Jughead is reunited with his old pal Hot Dog, but there’s something decidedly different about him. The contagion quickly spreads when a zombified Jughead shows up at a Riverdale Halloween dance. The town is swiftly overrun by the undead creatures, and Archie and his closest friends take refuge at Veronica Lodge’s manor. It isn’t long before even this lavish fortress is compromised, and the group seeks out shelter elsewhere…
Afterlife With Archie, Vol. 1: Escape From Riverdale manages to convey strong emotion and mature themes seemingly with ease. Some standout moments take place in issue #4, which makes great use of flashbacks to show Archie’s attachment to both his father and his dog Vegas, who both factor prominently in the present day story. Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa’s story manages to hit all the right notes of emotionally-charged tension, suspense, terror and tragedy; Francesco Francavilla’s masterful artwork brings the heartfelt story to life.
As for supplemental materials, Afterlife With Archie, Vol. 1: Escape From Riverdale has a gallery of standard, reprint and variant covers, along with the rough sketches and layouts by Francesco Francavilla. Overall, Arfterlife With Archie is easily one of the best horror books on comic stands today, and I highly recommend checking out this volume if you haven’t gotten up to speed yet.