‘Afterlife with Archie’ brings shambling horror to Riverdale

alwa-banner101113The first comic I ever read was an Archie comic. I remember my mom keeping stacks of “Double Digests” around the house from the time I was born until I left for college. I became well versed in the trials and tribulations of Archie Andrews and his pals. And while I was often ambivalent toward Archie’s women troubles (seriously Betty is the obvious choice!), I found myself more drawn to the horror comics my mom also kept. Warped and well-loved copies of EC’s The Vault of Horror and DC’s House of Mystery sometimes intermingled with the teenage exploits of Riverdale High. And it is in that world of alternating  four-color tales, that I could see the ghouls from a Tales From The Crypt story lay siege to Riverdale, turning the wholesome gang of “gee-whiz” students into a scrum of the undead.

It was these childhood memories of my mother’s reading material that came flooding back to me as I picked up the first issue of Afterlife with Archie.  With the reading of the first page, I wondered if writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa had the same experience growing up.

The opening pages of Afterlife with Archie should be enough to satisfy even the most discriminating horror fan. Drenched in shadow and orange highlights, artist Francesco Francavilla creates an atmosphere of dread in illustrations that call back to the horrors of yesteryear. His fragmented renderings of the Spellman house, ending with the silhouetted figure of Jugghead Jones clutching his dead dog, carries with it the best of Hammer Films and the work of EC’s Jack Davis.alwa_01_22

The comic begins with a grieving Jugghead, having just discovered that some has run over his poor dog with his car. In a desperate attempt to save his furry pal, he takes him to Sabrina Spellman (because a teenage witch might know a thing or two about necromancy). Against the wishes of her two aunts, Sabrina uses the Necronomicon to return “Hotdog” to life, and in a Pet Semetary-esque turn of events, the dog bites Jugghead turning him into a flesh-eating herald of things to come.

The thing I enjoyed most about this first issue was the lingering terror I felt while reading it. The gory violence (at least in this issue) is mostly implied through Francavilla’s brilliant art and Aguirre-Sacasa’s subtle dialogue. Francavilla chooses to show a zombie attacking someone in a silhouetted wide shot allowing us to imagine the bloody details. However, he’ll linger on a splash of a zombie, to give a feeling of dawning terror.

Afterlife with Archie has a delightful 50s invasion flick vibe to it, in a tale of wholesome suburbia, infiltrated by unholy terror. If you’re a horror fan who has a soft spot for the classics, I highly recommend Afterlife with Archie. I’m kind of surprised no one thought to do this concept sooner, but I’m really glad they did.

Grade: A+

Visit the official website HERE

Read about the possible film adaptation HERE

 

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