Afterlife With Archie More Than Zombies

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People are talking about the new horror series Afterlife With Archie that finds the familiar Riverdale gang battling -- and more often than not, becoming -- flesh-eating zombies. It's a thrilling story from the team of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla that often gets compared to other comic book zombie epics like The Walking Dead.

But this is more than just a zombie story. It's a horror story that brings together -- very subtly, but with hints of growing -- elements of other horror genres, whether it be the overtly supernatural events of Sabrina Spellman which kicked off the current zombie apocalypse, or the subversively creepy undertones of siblings Jason and Cheryl Blossom, who have this whole Flowers in the Attic thing going on between them.

What really gives the story life, however, is the humanity of the characters. We know these people from Riverdale. We grew up with them, as did our parents and their parents. They're our friends, and seeing them react against death and destruction without all the jokes and one-liners adds a terrific new dimension to this world. And the tense pathos isn't letting up anytime soon.

The fourth issue of the series focuses almost entirely on Archie Andrews, taking the reader inside his mind and emotions as he leaves the relatively safe confines of Lodge Manor to save his family. Along the way we lose another beloved character, one closer to Archie than almost anyone in the entire world: Fred Andrews, Archie's father. And it's not just that he succumbs, but that Archie must be the one to put him down to save his mother, Mary Andrews, from being killed. The panel arrangements, the glimpses of important father-son touchstones and life lessons interspersed with each blow to the head while tearfully repeating, "I love you dad" -- it's a moment in comics that pulls almost directly from the Joseph Campbell structure of the hero's journey as the son must kill the father before he can move on, and if you turn that page and you're not misty-eyed you may already be infected by the zombie virus.

Afterlife With Archie is a revolutionary concept, an unexpected blend of genres -- but most of all, it's just really fun reading!

5.0 / 5.0