"Afterlife with Archie #9" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Archie Horror
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Illustrated by Francesco Francavilla
2016, 34 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on May 25th, 2016
I'm still relatively new to the Archie universe, but one thing was made abundantly clear early on: Reggie Mantle is a jerk. He's like the dark version of the red-headed Mr. Andrews, making decisions for all the wrong reasons. In Afterlife with Archie, Reggie is the catalyst for all the horror that's been unleashed on Riverdale. In the very first issue, he hits Jughead's pet, Hot Dog, with his car. To save the dog's life, Jughead brought the corpse to Sabrina the Teenage Witch, who used the Necronomicon to raise him from the dead. Now, zombies are running wild and Sabrina is the bridge of Cthulhu. Yes, Afterlife with Archie really is that awesome.
Anyway, back to Reggie. This whole thing was started due to a harmless accident, so why should he beat himself up about it? But that's the thing. What if it wasn't an accident? He's been carrying this knowledge all this time and now he's starting to crack. He starts to hallucinate before making a decision that will change everything. It certainly paints him in a darker light, making him a far greater villain than any of the undead that are shuffling around these parts.
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Part of this issue is a flashback to the pre-zombie days. A few of the guys jokingly take an online test to see if they're a sociopath. Archie is, of course, the opposite, so they laugh at his answers to each question. Meanwhile, Reggie sits quietly to the side, somewhat in horror as he notices that all of his responses are in line with that of a sociopath. It explains a lot and it's rather chilling to watch as this realization comes over him.
Reggie has a near constant calm, cool expression on his face. He's always calculating his next move and how it might bring him the glory and recognition he feels he so rightly deserves. The only time his guard is ever down is when he's talking with Midge, the love – or lust – of his life. These scenes are where Reggie passes for human.
Artist Francesco Francavilla's artwork is brilliant. This is not anything new. What really stands out with this issue is his use of colors, especially with the flashbacks. They have a purplish hue to them, while the present day scenes are more yellow, almost as if the colors have been washed out from the sun. The panel edges for the scenes from the past are thicker and rougher, giving them the appearance of a memory, which works very well.
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This issue builds up to an incredible climax that begins to tie some of the loose threads together. You can guess where it may go. I mean, the story arc is called “Betty R.I.P.” Reggie fits into this in such a way that's both heartbreaking and heinous. These last few pages are absolutely chilling.
Afterlife with Archie is not your traditional zombie comic. It's far from it. There are way scarier things at work here and the evil plan is starting to come together. This issue's focus on Reggie is a glimpse into the mind of someone detached from reality. He's broken and the dead walking certainly didn't help matters. What's scarier is that there's a part of Reggie that thinks he's doing the right thing, which makes him an even more diabolical villain. If you thought the undead and Cthulhu were to be feared, just wait until you see what Reggie Mantle has in store.