AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #4
Written by Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa
Art by Francesco Francavilla
Published by Archie Comics
Release Date: March 5, 2014
There are very few comics as rooted in Americana as Archie, and very few things as 21st century America as zombies. The combination of the two should never have worked. Seriously. And yet, the mash-up of America’s sweethearts with the underworld’s spawn is so inspired that I can barely stand it. Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa has created a vision of Archie and his friends straight out of Night of the Living Dead, giving the teenagers and their families a pathos that outweighs every other set of protagonists in a horror comic today. It’s easy to pretend that the Archie characters don’t have much narrative weight in their regular ongoings (and if so, that’s an perception needing correction), but the vignette the writer lays out for Archie in this issue is heartbreaking, courageous, and frightening on a level we don’t see very often on the comic page.
Offering up a really strong parallel to Jughead and Hot Dog’s travails in issue #1, #4 gives us Vegas, Archie’s sweet dog and protector. Going the extra mile in narrating Vegas’s thoughts, Aquirre-Sacasa touches every nerve in the reader, and takes us from fear to heartbreak in a moment’s notice. Archie’s courage in retrieving his parents is commendable, but Vegas’s devotion to his master is honestly what makes this issue move from incredible to exemplary in its craft. Also, as a side note, the underpinnings of the relationship between Blossom siblings may be just as creepy as the zombies themselves, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Francesco Francavilla lends his usual perfect noir rendering to the worst night of Archie Andrew’s life, electrifying not just the confrontation between the healthy and the sick, but more specifically the showdown between Vegas and Hot Dog. The weaving of Archie’s confrontation with the zombie and his earliest days with his family creates this emotional patchwork, and it’s hard not to get choked up with every subsequent page turn. The limited color palette of orange (go figure) and blues throughout most of the issue do give an artificial Halloween feel, but thankfully transcends any chance of cliché. What we get instead is nighttime that glows, and the effect is truly eerie. Combine that with Francavilla’s lidless eyes and slow, steady pacing, and Afterlife with Archie becomes nearly cinematic in its rendering.
An exceptional issue of what has from the start been an exceptional series, Afterlife with Archie #4 is the finest moment yet for the sneak attack indie book of the year. If you haven’t been reading this book, I get it. But let this be a warning: you do not want that to be the case any longer. Stock up, buy your store out. Do whatever you need to do. You’ll thank me later.
The Verdict: 10/10
Want a preview? Click on the images below, courtesy Archie Comics!