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Afterlife with Archie: “Escape from Riverdale” (Archie Comics, 2013; #1-5)

Back in October, we did our Halloween Spooptacular! episode and talked about a bunch of horror comics. While we were setting up to record, I managed to get about an issue into Jen’s copy of Afterlife with Archie’s first volume, but that was it. I’m pleased to say that I have finally finished the book and can agree that it’s a good, good book.

It is also a brutal book. If you haven’t heard the episode or have forgotten the premise, it’s simple: Jughead enlists Sabrina the Teenage Witch to bring his dog, which had been hit by a car, back to life. This does not go well and, Hot Dog becomes a zombie. And before you know it, Riverdale is overrun by the walking dead. It is not only brutal in its violence, but it pulls no emotional punches, either. Even if you don’t have a deep history of reading these characters (I don’t!), Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa quickly establishes the myriad relationships in play, relying on things left unsaid to imply history with the same defness as explicit exposition. The sense of danger around these characters is pervasive, and once events are in motion, that danger never lets up.

Francesco Francavilla handles art duties for the end of the world, and his pulpy, high-contrast style fits the tone’s book to a T. His layouts are claustrophobic, caging in the book’s characters: often, panels are tight focuses in on a face or torso. When he draws a group of people, the panel squeezes in tight, leaving no room for the crowd to spread out or move away—the only time there’s much space is when someone is on the run. And when things get tense, his panels narrow even further, filling a page with fractured, focused jumps from image to image as though the world is in a tailspin.

If you’re into horror, zombies, or survival books (or any combination of the three), there is no question that you should check out Afterlife with Archie. Even if you’re not, it’s a well-written, well-paced book—again, even if you don’t have an attachment to the Archieverse. But if you’re prone to getting upset at the upending of fictional characters' lives, well—in that case, bring tissues.

Collected in

  • Afterlife with Archie, Vol. 1: Escape from Riverdale (#1-5)


Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa | Artist: Francesco Francavilla | Letterer:  Jack Morelli


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