I first heard about the new comic book series Afterlife with Archie at Fan Expo Vancouver, which took place last month. I never followed Archie comics very much but I was intrigued by the concept of a zombie apocalypse occurring in Archie’s world. I am also aware that this whole concept is gimmicky because it has already been done by Marvel and it has been done countless of times in other media. However, I did read some good press about Afterlife with Archie, so this convinced me to pick up the issues from my local comic book store.
As I will be reviewing issue numbers 1 to 4 of Afterlife with Archie, please be mindful that there will be some spoilers below. After reading the first four issues, I have to say I was impressed by the effectiveness of the mood and art work. Francesco Francavilla does a fantastic job in drawing the characters’ facial expression and using shadows and darkness. His art reminds me of the gritty and shadowy worlds drawn by David Mazzucchelli, like the scenes in the Batman Year One series. This is no ordinary juvenile romp through Archie’s idyllic teenage world. Archie and everyone else look sombre and scared. This is an adult-oriented comic that casts Archie and his gang as imperiled teenagers, as if they were in a slasher movie. So Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (the writer) and Francesco Francavilla depict Archie like this:
Meanwhile the regular Archie title still depicts Archie smiling and wide-eyed like this:
Unlike the regular Archie comics, the teenaged gags have been replaced by tense and taut scenes where Archie and his friends are constantly trying to survive. Like the Walking Dead series, violence and gore are ever-present. After Jughead has transformed into a zombie, he literally charges at his nemesis Veronica, and tries to bite into her.
Issue #4 is my favourite issue so far. The story is well-paced and it shows Archie wielding a baseball bat to protect his mom. Meanwhile, Betty and Veronica and friends have taken refuge at Veronica’s home, where they are protected by all the wealthy amenities inside her house. The issue ends by revealing Jughead to be leading the horde of zombies as he points towards the far-off horizon where Veronica’s home is located! This suggests that a zombie siege will take place in issue #5.
So far this series has been written and drawn really well, but I wonder how it will end. How many issues can we expect to see before Afterlife with Archie ends? Will there be a finite number of issues? If Afterlife with Archie does indeed continue for years and years, could we expect to see Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla introduce new characters and locations? Archie’s high school world has a limited number of characters and locations, so it may have to expand into new locations in the way that The Walking Dead continually introduces new characters and new safe zones. And how closely do the Afterlife with Archie writers want to follow the Walking Dead formula? To their credit, they haven’t copied The Walking Dead, but if they want this story to continue on for a long time, it may become more and more difficult to keep the story fresh and original.
While it might be easy to dismiss this series as “Archie Meets the Walking Dead”, I believe that the creators of Archie are committed to Afterlife with Archie. This is no ordinary weird cross-over such as Archie Meets the Punisher. This series shows Archie in a serious way that I have never seen before, and I look forward to reading more issues of Afterlife with Archie.