In the aftermath of the madness that wrapped up the last issue of Afterlife with Archie (i.e. Sabrina being forcibly married to Cthulhu), returning to the book’s main plot of following the Riverdale refugees might seem like a bit of a let down at first. Yet if there’s one thing we’ve learned since this comic began last October it is to never underestimate writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla. Here the duo serve up an atypical entry that (mostly) takes the form of one of Betty’s diary entries.
Through this book Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla have thus far proven to be the best pairing in contemporary comics, with the former’s words being brought vividly to life through the artist’s understated expressions and evocative scenery. It’s been a consistently excellent read, but can Aferlife with Archie possibly maintain its high quality?
The answer seems to be a resounding yes.
Set against the backdrop of the first Thanksgiving since Jughead — now being called Jugdead by his friends, a wink to fans’ nickname for the zombie version of the character — kickstarted the zombie apocalypse is an issue consumed by long-simmering rivalries and surprising developments that prove that attempting to predict where the story will go next is as futile as trying to reanimate the dead.
Desperate to keep something of a normal routine, Betty has begun attempting to rewrite her old diaries. In the process, she not only fills in the backstory of how she, Archie and Veronica originally met but also details her troubled relationship with older sister Polly. (An enigmatic character whose jealousy and resentment over the attention that Betty gets will doubtlessly prove to play a key role in future issues). Elsewhere, it seems as if Archie is finally resolving his lifelong love triangle and, in some much-needed comic relief, Kevin becomes obsessed with establishing a lexicon that fashionably describes the end of the world. Further complicating things, all of the teens are having shared dreams about Sabrina’s suffering. And then the slow burn of the Blossom twins’ storyline explodes into a fiery, um, Blaze when Cheryl makes a realization about her sibling and takes drastic action…
After the huge theatrics of the last issue, this slower paced installment is exactly what was necessary and needed at this point in the series’ run. This issue is all about reflection, be it the characters quiety recalling their pasts or the evoking of the poignant speech from the end of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town that serves as a coda to a makeshift funeral in which the survivors symbolically bury their dead.
Of course with this being Afterlife with Archie, their dead are just one step behind them. And that’s truly something to be thankful for.