"Afterlife with Archie #4" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Archie Comics
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Illustrated by Francesco Francavilla
2014, 34 Pages, $2.99
Comic released on March 5th, 2014
Things get serious in Afterlife with Archie, as the title character leaves the safety of Veronica's mansion to check on his parents back home. This is usually a sure way to die in a zombie story, but this is Archie Andrews we're talking about. He's not going down that easy. Fortunately he's not alone, as his trusty dog Vegas is ready to defend his master against the forces of the undead. Will that be enough to hold off the zombie horde? Or is Archie too late to save his mom and dad?
This issue starts off with a quick background for how Archie got his dog. The flashback scenes have a completely different look and feel than the rest of the comic as they are warm and nostalgic as if you are looking at an old family photo album. They show Archie as a young boy around 8 years old, traveling to a puppy farm with his parents, and instantly bonding with Vegas. Then we fast forward to the present where Archie is face-to-face with a zombie Hot Dog (Jughead's dog), and Vegas jumps in to help. Author Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa provides some basic thoughts from the dog's point of view. This could have gone horribly. Instead, it's incredibly touching. When his master is faced with danger, Vegas is ready to defend him at all costs.
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That's not the first time that Afterlife with Archie will tug at your heartstrings this month. There is an immensely emotional kill in this issue that is handled with such delicacy while simultaneously bringing the horror and gore of a zombie story that it's downright impressive. Part of this is due to Francesco Francavilla's artwork. The death shot is made up of a full page broken up into fifteen images. Some of them show segments of the larger picture, while others show flashbacks to happier times the two people shared, or alternate views of the same shot. It solidifies the raw feeling in the scene so well and it's done with almost no words. There is a very small piece of dialogue that serves as the cherry on top of a perfect page. An excellent cap.
Francavilla is doing a damn fine job on Afterlife with Archie. His covers for the series harken back to a golden age of horror comics and this one is no exception. Each issue has opened with a one page shot of a setting (in this case, the interior of Archie's house) with a line from the book (this time it's “Please, don't...don't make me do this...”) It sets the tone of the chapter very well.
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Francavilla also uses color to his advantage throughout the issue. The flashback at the front of the book is in yellow. The scenes with Archie searching through his house are in blue. Any time a zombie shows up, the panels are tinted in red. It's a nice touch that helps the story.
While this series marks the first Archie comics I've read, I'm very impressed by them. Putting zombies into this world could have been a complete joke, but it's being taken very seriously. Aguirre-Sacasa has drafted a true horror story with this comic. Francavilla's artwork certainly doesn't hurt. It's gory, bloody, and there are true life-and-death stakes amongst some classic characters. Plus, this comic almost made me cry...twice. That might go on my tombstone. “Almost cried during an Archie comic.” I'm kind of OK with that.