“The end of the world begins… in Riverdale!”
Archie Comics, the popular and long-running comic franchise created in the early 1940s, is set in the small town of Riverdale, and concerns a group of teenagers who attend Riverdale High School. Archie Andrews is a loveable, accident-prone, red-head who is the center of a love triangle with Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge. Betty is a sweet, girl next door type with blonde hair, while Veronica is a spoiled rich girl with black hair. Archie‘s best friends are Jughead Jones and Reggie Mantle. Jughead is a lazy, sarcastic moocher who wears a crown-like beanie, while Reggie is a vain, gifted athlete who is Archie‘s main rival. Sabrina the Teenage Witch is also part of the Archie Comics publishing franchise. Archie is a very sweet and innocent comic, but, what if that innocence was shattered by a zombie apocalypse?
Afterlife With Archie, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa [Archie meets GLEE 4-issue comic series] with art by Francesco Francavilla [Archie Meets KISS cover art], answers this question with plenty of dark twists to appeal to a more mature fan base. Afterlife With Archie is like the anti-Archie. The iconic teenagers are the same, mostly; but, whereas the original comic is drawn with bright, basic colors, this re-imagining uses darker, somber hues. And, of course, there’s that whole zombie apocalypse in Riverdale thing! Afterlife With Archie is one of the best zombie comics I’ve read since Fanboys vs. Zombies and Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs Zombies. I haven’t read The Walking Dead since forever ago – I hipster-ed out when people who don’t read the comic started raving about the AMC TV series. I “hipster out” on a lot of things, but, I’m not a hipster.
The idea for Afterlife With Archie was sparked by Francesco Francavilla‘s retro-horror variant cover of Life With Archie #23 [titled Afterlife With Archie] in which Archie faced zombie-Jughead, zombie-Betty, and zombie-Veronica in a graveyard. The issue didn’t have zombies, but, soon, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was given the green light on a new series with zombies. Aguirre-Sacasa is also a screenwriter who co-wrote Carrie (2014) [starring Hit Girl], and wrote The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), both remakes.
The first story arc of Afterlife With Archie [issues #1-5] was collected and recently published by Archie Comics as Book One: Escape From Riverdale (June 2014). Watch one of the trailers for the comic series here …
Watch more trailers here. All comics should have trailers.
In Issue #1, Jughead asks Sabrina to bring his pet Hot Dog back to life after he’s hit by a car. Sabrina, against Hilda and Zelda‘s warning, helps Jughead. The next morning, Hot Dog returns as a zombie-dog and bites Jughead. Meanwhile, Veronica and Betty are fighting over Archie as Riverdale High prepares fro the Halloween Dance. Later, zombie-Jughead crashes the dance, and “this is how the end of the world begins …”
In Issue #2, Veronica recounts the horrifying events at the Halloween Dance to her father Hiram Lodge, after Veronica, Betty, Archie, and other survivors seek refuge at Lodge Manor. In this issue, we learn that a few familiar supporting characters are given modern twists. In a prologue, we learn that Cheryl and Jason Blossom are incestuous lovers; while, in an interlude, at Pop Tate‘s diner, we learn that Nancy Woods and Ginger Lopez are playing “Brokeback Riverdale” [umm, they’re lesbians!].
In Issue #3, Lodge Manor is locked down while Riverdale is under siege from the undead; but, Archie, against Betty‘s wishes, sneaks out to find his parents. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang are passing the time in Veronica‘s pool, but, narrowly escape when Midge, who was bitten by Jughead at the dance, and Moose become zombies. I love how Betty and Veronica are always at odds, mostly because of Archie, but, are still BFF’s.
In Issue #4, Archie, back in Riverdale, runs into Hot Dog, but Vegas, Archie‘s dog, saves him. He finds his mother, but, he also finds that his father is a zombie, and, he is forced to beat him to death with a baseball bat to save his mother. Meanwhile, zombie-Jughead rallies the zombies of Riverdale and sets his sights on Lodge Manor.
In Issue #5, Lodge Manor’s attentive butler Smithers recounts the events leading up to Archie convincing stubborn Hiram Lodge that, in order to survive, they must leave since the zombies have besieged the manor. He reluctantly agrees. Nancy and Ginger have made their way to the manor in search of Nancy‘s ex Chuck Clayton, re-igniting a love triangle between Nancy, Chuck and Ginger that rivals the one between Archie, Betty and Veronica. I love this side story, and I love Ginger‘s jealousy-fueled sarcasm. Cheryl and Jason have also made their way to the manor, and Cheryl‘s tired of her incestuous ways much to Jason‘s dismay.
Book One: Escape From Riverdale is a fun read, and a very handsome volume with extensive cover and sketch galleries. “What does the future hold …” the last pages wonder, “… when the streets of Riverdale run red with blood?” I can’t wait to find out!
Note: “Hipster-ing out” is similar to “going full Roman” which is a term coined by my friends used to describe when you abandon mainstream comics, movies or music to appreciate only independent comics, movies or music. My last name is Roman, by the way.