Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review of Afterlife with Archie, volume 1

Afterlife with Archie, Book One, graphic novel containing issues 1-5, cover-dated December 2013 – July 2014. Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, art by Francesco Francavilla.

In the summer of 2013, Archie Comics announced that they would be releasing their first “Teen +” rated comics, a book only available through comic book stores and not on newsstands. This would be a zombie-themed story (yes, you read that right) and be called Afterlife with Archie.

One thing that differentiates this book from other zombie tales is that this one starts with an explanation for how the plague began. Jughead’s beloved dog Hot Dog is hit by a car (we later learn by who), and he takes the animal to Sabrina the Teenage Witch for help. Unfortunately, the dog is already dead, and beyond the powers of Sabrina and her aunts for healing. Jughead asks her if she could … you know … bring him back. And that is how the End of Days comes to Riverdale.

Issue #4 is one of the most emotional comic books I’ve read in a long time, as it features great moments from both human and canine POVs. Archie’s dog Vegas becomes a feature character, and the results are stunning. And heartbreaking.

On this blog, I have reviewed the first 96 issues of The Walking Dead (the review of issues 85-96 is here). I enjoy the series very much, but have to say that there are few things that Afterlife does better than Walking Dead does. Most important, we know these characters. Whether we’ve recently read the adventures of Archie and his buddies recently or not, we know Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Reggie, Moose, Sabrina, and all of the others. And Aguirre-Sacasa does a terrific job keeping these characters “in character.” Yes, the scenario is worlds away from anything these characters have ever faced, but the relationships and basic personality traits are there. In particular, the Archie-Betty-Veronica love triangle seems to hold true from the traditional Archie stories.

There are moments of brilliance in the art, and especially in the coloring – the stark black-and-whites in TWD makes sense for that story, but what Francesco Francavilla does in these issues is arresting. Francavilla is responsible for all of the art in these stories, including the coloring. The color palette is limited, wtth oranges and blues and grays, and each color seems to bring with it, much symbolism.

For those who enjoy audio podcasts, Shawn Engel and Bill Robinson (from the excellent Walking Dead Wednesday) joined me for a 2+ hour discussion of these comics. Our discussion of the first 3 issues can be found as episode 2 of Relatively Geeky Presents. Our discussion of issues 4-6 can be found as episode 31 of Walking Dead Wednesday.

source: Westerville library

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