My introduction to comics came via a girl on my street that regularly sold comics on her front lawn for 25 cents a piece. I was introduced to some mainstays of the Marvel Universe – Spider Man, Thor, The Fantastic Four and The Hulk, as well titles unique to the time like The Micronauts, Shogun Warriors and The Eternals. My sisters scooped up the Richie Rich, Casper and Archie comics (I found out later that most of the comics were from her older brother’s collection who had moved away to college. The nerve!).
Over the long Canadian winters, after reading Thor #300 a thousand times, I would find myself going through my sister’s collections, becoming familiar with the world of Archie, acutely aware of how repetitive the plots were while oblivious to the same nature of the comics I liked (How will the Fantastic Four ever win this battle?). I was familiar with Jughead, Moose, Bettie & Veronica’s puzzlingly eternal battle for the titular ginger, as well as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (who was also the source for the 90’s TV show, who knew?).
Afterlife with Archie is basically the zombie apocalypse set in Riverdale. The premise is mildly interesting but the execution is what makes this an exceptional read. The story starts with Jughead’s dog, Hot Dog, being killed by Reggie’s car. Jughead asks Sabrina to cast a spell on the dog to bring it back to life. She does, but the spirits that be are not amused and the spell goes awry. Hot Dog comes back as a zombie and bites Jughead, who turns and heads for the Riverdale High Halloween dance, where all hell breaks loose.
The gang retreats for sanctuary at Veronica Lodge’s mansion and they get a reprieve from the mayhem as Riverdale burns. Archie makes a break for it to save his parents and that sequence is a prime example of what makes this slant on the series so effective. When Jughead’s zombie dog shows up at Archie’s house, his own faithful pooch, Vegas, smashes through the window and sacrifices himself, the thought bubbles reflecting what would probably go in inside those loyal, dopey heads. Archie finds his mother safe, but his father has turned, and the panels jump between the present and Archie’s childhood memories of his dad.
The mash-up works incredibly well. I thought the concept was just a mini-series, but the trade paperback ends with the gang fleeing from Riverdale. I’m still undecided whether to wait for the next 5 issues to be compiled or just go out and get the individual issues. The series is written by Robert Aguirre-Sacasa and the art is done by Francesco Francavilla, it could easily fit in the Walking Dead universe and it’s definitely worth checking out.