You never forget your first time. The furtive glances, the awkward uncertainty, the not knowing what to do. My first time wasn’t as glamorous as most of my friends. While they were off swinging across the city with Spider-man, I was drinking malts in the Chock’Lit Shoppe. While they were bouncing baddies with Batman, I was getting dizzy trying to choose between Betty and Veronica. You see, while I may be into more “adult” or “sophisticated” fare now, my first foray into comics came in the form of an Archie Double Digest that my mom got me from the grocery store. Don’t get me wrong, I was aware of the capes and tights books, but at the tender age of 5 I didn’t have much purchasing power, and I was thankful for any opportunity to read something new.
With all of that said, it’s only appropriate that I return to Riverdale to see if my love for Archie and the gang could translate to the classroom. I don’t know if you’ve been keep up with what they are doing over at Archie Comics, but the corny, saccharine sweet stories of yesteryear have been updated with some of the most progressive attempts at storytelling in recent memory. And this isn’t just a desperate grab for readership, either. From introducing an openly gay character, to Archie entering an interracial relationship, everything is handled with sincerity, and motivated by the need to stay current with modern audiences.
Which brings us to the subject of today’s review: Afterlife With Archie by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla sees the Riverdale Gang dealing with a zombie apocalypse…seriously (well not seriously, but you get what I mean).
The thing we lose when we focus on more “serious” books is the idea that comics can be fun and still good. Afterlife with Archie reminds us that it’s ok to leave the weighty superheroes and serious indie comics behind for a moment, and just get lost in an honest to goodness comic. Does my prior knowledge of Archie paint Afterlife in a more favorable light? No, I don’t think so. Much like Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson wrote a love letter to modern and past horror classics with their Scream series, Afterlife with Archie combines genuine horror creepiness with the small town charm of Riverdale, and we get a book that both the initiated and uninitiated can enjoy. I don’t want to tell you exactly how Riverdale became ground zero for a zombie infection, but I will say that I love how Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla found a way to effectively use every character in the Archieverse (here’s hoping Josie and Pussycats show up as butt-kicking rockers in the next volume). There is also a ton of character updating that true fans will find both sacrilegious and exciting at the same time (especially with Cheryl Blossom….WHAT. THE. WHAT?!).
Classroom Rating: 9/10. The lowest review I’ve ever given was an 8 out of 10, and I like to think that is because I only review good material. That being said, the only thing that keeps this from being a 10 is if you are unfamiliar with the rest of the Archie books, some of this might come off as sort of inside baseball. However, it is so well written and the art is so gorgeous that this is my favorite Archie book of all time. Also, if you are worried that the horror would be too much to handle, don’t. This is still Archie and the creators have masterfully found a way to depict what horror would look like in this world, without going over the top with the blood and gore. It’s a very easy read, and I would say readers as young as 14 could handle this, 12 if you think some of the more mature elements would go over their heads (but as always YOU READ IT FIRST).
What Could You Teach with Afterlife with Archie? Well, it definitely works as a genre study. Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla give several nods to masters of horror like Romero, Carpenter and the aforementioned Craven. Also, all of the horror archetypes are here, so character analysis would work here as well. I would also do a little with symbolism with the use of color and shadow in this book.
Highlights: There are so many, but my favorite moment is Archie’s dog fighting off a zombified dog. The inner dialogue Vegas has is heartbreaking, but it is emotionally necessary for the reader.