Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by Francesco Francavilla
Published by Archie Comics
Release Date: May 6, 2015

The remaining kids and adults of Riverdale — thirteen in all — have retreated to Vermont, holed up in a haunted hotel. As a decision is made that may prove to lead to their undoing, another is forming in Archie Andrews brain that may be worse yet for the group. Change is coming to the families of Riverdale, and they don’t have the bubble of their perfect town to protect them anymore…

There’s something just so appealing about taking what seems like the most perfect, innocent world and lifting it off the ground to find worms and rot underneath. It’s a feeling that’s responsible for the outstanding interest fans have in Afterlife with Archie. But for the first time, it’s also quite literally the driver of the plot.

Aguirre-Sacasa gives us a look into the history of Riverdale itself with this issue that re-interprets every Archie Comic you’ve ever come across and makes them as creepy as Afterlife itself. That’s a pretty impressive feat for a single issue, and moreso since it’s only the tenth comic to be published in this line. Why does it work so well?

Because Archie is still Archie. Betty is still Betty. Even Jughead, returned to the narrative as a spectral agent here, is still Jughead. If any of these characters weren’t the wholesome, determined, genuinely good people we’ve seen in countless bright, four-color comics, this dark tome wouldn’t resonate so well. Aquirre-Sacasa chose wisely in maintaining and channeling this goodness onto the page, and leaving the darkness to the moral dilemmas at hand.

It’s not a simple feat from an artistic standpoint to do that, however. Francavilla is handed the unenviable task of illustrating an issue with no real villains, but a pall is cast nonetheless across the face of every single character. Their fear, their indecision, it all comes across in a minimum of line and a stunning color palette of reds (mostly hair) and blues (everything else) that makes every scene feel dour, but weighted down with demonic influence nonetheless.

The artist does a great job of taking Aquirre-Sacasa’s influences — The Shining, The Walking Dead, any number of Witch sacrifice stories — and transforming them beyond their homage. It’s more than just substituting Jack’s alcohol for Archie’s root beer float (adorable as that may be). It’s about making the scene into something that feels so natural to the book. It defies the patchwork nature of the series and gives it all a coherence that makes it all the more frightening. Because the more real it feels…

The big star here isn’t necessarily Jughead, though. It’s Archie’s mom, who acts almost like an oracle to her son’s leadership, and supports him in a way that makes her both wise and self-sacrificing. The women in this story haven’t had a large role to play yet, other than as plot devices, but here we get the first glimpse of that, and it works within the world at hand.

Another stellar edition in the Archie Horror line, Afterlife with Archie #8 continues to deliver an intriguing, frightening, and fascinatingly beautiful take on the town we all grew up in, whether in real life or on the page. Just be careful when you start to turn over these stones. You never know what’s lying beneath them.

The Verdict: 9.5/10




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