Rating: 5/5 – Raising the Bar on a Series I Didn’t Think Could Get Any Better.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.
Without a doubt, I can say that Afterlife with Archie is my favorite comic series currently being published. I’m just putting that up front because it likely colors my perception of this issue and subsequently my review. It also highlights my overwhelming anticipation and expectations for the return of this series after a 5-month hiatus, which isn’t necessarily a good thing because high expectations often lead to resentful disappointment. That said, this issue exceeded any and all expectations that I had and managed to raise the bar on a series that I didn’t think could get any better.
For those who haven’t read Afterlife with Archie, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa takes the most idyllic universe in all of comics and transforms it into a “horror-verse” that finds the title character and his friends at ground zero of a zombie apocalypse. This issue picks up as the ragtag cast of survivors escapes the city limits in search of safety elsewhere. What follows is dreadful, horrific, scary, and disturbing, but not for the reasons you may think. Sure, there’s a horde of flesh eating zombies led by a semi-intelligent undead Jughead closing in on the gang, and we get some standard genre fare in that respect as they fight/run for their lives. But where Aguirre-Sacasa truly turns up the horror notch is by exposing some of the dirty secrets of the perfect little town of Riverdale. Using several flashbacks, he re-imagines characters and situations we thought we knew in both subtly and overtly horrifying ways, while creating a sense of drama that exceeds the original premise of the book. And the Archie-Betty-Veronica love triangle? Daytime soap operas could take a cue from this issue. The viciousness teetering on the edge of this tripartite relationship is disturbing on its own level and is just a spark away from being more dangerous than any zombie. Ultimately, this issue could have nothing to do with a zombie apocalypse and it would be every bit as dramatic and impactful.
Francesco Francavilla continues to brilliantly bring this horrific world to life with his unique and breathtaking visuals. Like Aguirre-Sacasa’s narrative, Francavilla has really elevated his art to the next level for this issue. While there are still plenty of his signature orange tones throughout, he’s expanded his usual color palette to include more purples, greens, blues, and yellows to both accentuate the surreal aspect of the story or create softer, more realistic tones. I could almost feel the sun rising in some panels and I certainly got the creepy “ghost story around the campfire” feel in others. I also found more detail in his increased use of character close-ups, which benefits this issue greatly since it is essentially a character piece. Francavilla’s art is truly unique and I couldn’t imagine this series with anyone else at the artistic helm.
If you haven’t read an Archie comic in years, this series may be the perfect gateway for your return. If you’ve never read one at all, this issue is an excellent jumping on point to give one a try. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa took the cliché and horror genre tropes of the first 6 issues and added a heavy dose of drama and madness to craft quite possibly the best single issue of a comic I’ve read this year. In doing so, he passed the limit of what I thought could ever be in an Archie comic. If a 5-month hiatus leads to the kind of creative explosion presented this issue, then I’m all for the wait. But don’t make it too long, for fear that I’ll suffer maddening withdrawal.
Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture