Rating: 5/5 – Once You Go Zombie…All Hell Breaks Loose!
by guest reviewer Kevyn Knox.
I have never been much of an Archie Comics kinda guy. Sure, I have read one or two now and again throughout my life, but none of them have ever been anything that I would write home about. But then came Afterlife with Archie. My love of pretty much all things zombie apocalypse instantly drew me to the idea, but I really never expected much out of the new title. Then I went to my local comic shop (the great Comix Connection in Mechanicsburg, Pa – plug plug) and saw that the inaugural issue of this title came with a series of variant covers, all showcasing a different local comic shop from around the country. And guess what, my very own aforementioned LCS had one of these variants. So, of course, I just had to buy the thing, even if I still really had no faith in it being anything great.
Well damn, was I ever wrong. After reading the first issue, I was hooked, lined, and sinkered. Afterlife with Archie instantly became one of my favorite comic books. It seriously blew me away – and that doesn’t happen all that often these days. With each issue, smartly written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and gorgeously drawn by Francesco Francavilla, I get blown away more and more and more and more. And now here we are at issue #5, and the finale of the first story arc, and I am blown away once again. What Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavila bring to this comic book, is a sense of danger, a sense of wonder, and one hell of a story, never thought possible in a comic featuring Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, and the gang – and that goes deeper and deeper with each mind-bending issue.
Remember, this is not the Archie Andrews of old. This is not your father’s Riverdale High. This is something altogether different. We see the inevitable deaths of some beloved characters, and perhaps even a tear or two come to the surface (if you haven’t read issue four yet – be prepared), and we are given thrills and scares and WTF moments galore. We have gotten to see tearful goodbyes and a depth of narrative unparalleled in Archie Comics history. We have gotten to see minor characters step up, and major characters go down, and all in a storyline that is never grasping, never reaching, never placating or going for cheap thrills. Afterlife with Archie is not merely a zombie tale told in typical Archie style. This is a comic with real heart and real soul, indeed. This is a comic that doesn’t just play at the genre, but that turns it, and the long history of Archie and his pals, on its freakin’ head. This is not just an extension of the Archie Universe, but a whole new creature, indeed.
With all the news on Archie dying this Summer over in his Life with Archie series (which is yet another “alternate reality” Archie title like this one), this fantastic series has gotten a bit lost in the media hype of a more normal death, and that is a shame. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s storytelling is as deft as anything out there right now, giving (ironically) life to characters I thought long dormant in their growth. Meanwhile, artist extraordinaire, Francesco Francavilla with his unique panel construction, and depth of field, gives the comic the moodiest of moods.
Every issue manages to top the one before it, and even when you think that is nigh impossible, the next issue does just that. Issue #5 has done it again, and I am sure, as unbelievable as it may sound, issue six will again top this one. Granted, this may already be nothing more than a mush letter disguising itself as a comic book review, but I do want to leave you with one truly bold statement. There are many great comic books out there on the shelves these days, from personal favorites Sex Criminals to Black Science to Hawkeye, but I have got to say that Afterlife with Archie, in my not-so-humble opinion, is the best damn one of ’em all. So there.
Reviewed by: Kevyn Knox