Brandon Borzelli's Geek Goggle Reviews
Afterlife With Archie #3
Aguirre-Sacasa & Francavilla
If the title doesn't give it away then here's what this book is about: zombie apocalypse in the land of Archie. That's correct: this is a comic book set in Riverdale with Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead where the zombie plague hits in full effect. Characters try to make sense of the mess, they try to survive, some get bit, they turn and plenty die. If this doesn't sound like an Archie comic then that is an understatement. However, after reading the issue I found the characterizations to drive the book that is obviously a horror based comic book. It's not a gory satire on Archie at all. Instead it's a character driven book just like the best of the Archie comics no matter the genre. This was actually something that I found to be very good.
This chapter begins with some of the survivors held up in the Lodge Manor. They try to make some sense of what's happened to so many of their friends while others begin to take inventory of whose left. As you might imagine some are scared, some are a mental mess while others are trying to figure out the next steps. All does not stay safe for long.
As the zombies begin to wreck the safe haven in the Manor, the pace picks up significantly. While the tension is ramped up in the book the comic book wanders into a suspense type story that is very intense. These scenes make it clear that no character is safe in this kind of story.
The story works because the characters are so familiar. Their dialogue, their pain points, their intersections are all spot on. The book also works well because the characterizations help drive the story. The plot devices are the types of things you've seen dozens of times in survival stories but it's the execution of the comic that makes it something to take note of and not the uniqueness of the situations.
The beauty of the book is the artwork. Yes, Francavilla draws dark comic books and thriller settings extremely well and obviously a zombie plays right into those strengths. However, the trick here is that this is an Archie comic book. Something you think more cartoon than life-like horror books. Francavilla merges the two to perfection as the comic has a softer pencil look to it to keep the cartoon look but introduces the horror genre edge. It's a dark book but one that holds to the Archie look without making a joke of the story. It's the perfect blend artistically.
Afterlife with Archie sounds like it shouldn't work. Zombies in Riverdale? Beloved characters dead? However, the writing, the characterizations and the art form a very entertaining story that reads well and seems to fit in line with a regular Archie story. Granted, it's darker but it doesn't overwhelm with horror elements. This is a pleasant surprise.
4 out of 5 Geek Goggles