I honestly don't know why I've waited so long to sample Afterlife with Archie. Francesco Francavilla has been a favorite artist since I first stumbled across The Black Coat several years ago. His Black Beetle is pure pulp creamy goodness. His art has texture and atmosphere unlike most of the new breed of artists who seem overcome by the computer toys they play with. But I knew I wanted to read this the second I saw it, but I just never popped for it. Maybe it was the reluctance to drop a dime on yet another new comic when I was trying to swear them off. I really don't know, since by and large I rather enjoy askew visions of the Riverdale gang.
The saga began, according to writer Robert Aguirre-Sacasa when he glommed the variant cover above for Life with Archie. the moody image of Archie Andrews being confronted by his friends converted to zombies is a hoot. And despite the scion of Riverdale's comment to the contrary, Auirre-Sacasa soon imagined that such a thing could be. It begins with Hot Dog who is killed in a tragic accident and Jughead's appeal to Sabrina to help him. But what she does literally seems to raise hell and before you know it, all of Riverdale is awash in the undead. How the minions of the town deal with this apocalyptic moment is the story and it's told with more than a touch of actual human drama. The longtime feuds and alliances are in evidence, but they given a new more sober cast. Bit players come into focus as the story shifts its focus from issue to issue.
The debut storyline, comprised of five issues is contained in the trade I read along with a nifty cover gallery and some other bits of artwork which show Francavilla's process. The story has since been extended beyond this first installment and in a few months the second trade with hit the stands. I now know I'll be there to snatch one up, because I want to know what happens next. Archie fans come in all sizes ana ages and these pliable characters have been turned into a worthy cast for a story like this. What we already know about them allows for some clever twists and turns and what we learn reveals aspects of the characters which have been there all along perhaps. It's pretty dandy storytelling, both in terms of the written word and especially graphically. Here are some more covers by Francavilla for the series.
This one is most highly recommended, but I'd guess folks already know that. There are more stories in this alternate-universe, one starring Sabrina and another focused on Jughead as a werewolf. I don't anticipate getting those as the main allure for me was Francavilla's artowkr, but I've learned never to say never. For me it turns out, that despite all attempts there is no escape from Riverdale.