Now that the basic premise of Afterlife With Archie has sunk in, it still amazes how writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa can craft a perfect horror story while not changing the basic character foundations of his cast. Often times, in comics like Archie, characters are caricatures, defined by descriptors rather than nuanced details. Such is the case with Archie’s cast through the decades, but Afterlife With Archie has created a world where each Archie cast member is immediately recognizable and conforms to decades of established character moments but they also have such lovingly depicted depth that when the character is in danger or, unthinkably, perishes, the audiences feels the moment like a blow to the gut.
Afterlife With Archie #3 splits the cast up a bit with meaningful moments spotlighting Archie, Betty and Veronica, Moose and Midge, and Mr. Lodge. Mr. Lodge in particular has a profoundly thought provoking sequence that reveals the billionaire’s guilt over his wife’s death from so long ago. Lodge is so much more than a foil to Archie; he is his daughter’s protector and the first line of defense against the zombie threat. He is a pragmatist that wants to keep his beloved baby girl safe, a character trait that is in line with years’ worth of gags of Lodge trying to keep the boys away from his Veronica. This time though, it’s not just Archie trying to sneak into the Lodge Mansion to smooch with Veronica, this time the stakes are as high as they get and the audience feels it.
The other big moment of the book is the zombification of Moose and Midge, two light and airy characters with a deep history of gags and laughs. As the two share their final private moment together before Midge is transformed via a scratch she suffered last issue, Midge declares her love for Moose, a final human act before she turns her long time beau into a monster. As fans watch the two beloved Archie icons become something profane, the warm memories of childhood turn to ashes. As the chaos of the book progresses, it’s clear that the creators are gleefully aware that they are corrupting innocent symbols of childhood. Characters that most readers spent their youths dreaming about and voraciously enjoying under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime or in summer camp are slowly becoming corrupted beasts before the loyal reader’s eyes.
In Afterlife With Archie, everything is accurate to the comics of the past, but nothing is sacred. The accuracy that Aguirre-Sacasa provides narratively, Francesco Francavilla does visually. Each character the artist puts down on paper is easily recognizable. When something horrific happens to a character (and it does…often) Francavilla still keeps all their recognizable aspects intact while twisting him or her into something vile.
Afterlife With Archie is an endurance test. It’s an exercise to see how much a loyal reader can take, a test on how much evil can fans can tolerate watching their favorite icons endure. The book is hard to take emotionally, but damn, is it good!
Afterlife With Archie creators Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla are both part of our 101 Comics Creators to Watch in 2014! Read the whole thing right here!