While I collect comics as a hobby, I don’t necessarily have every lauded book on my monthly pull list at my friendly neighborhood comic shop. I tend to go for less hero-y, off-the-beaten-path books like Alex + Ada, Letter 44, She-Hulk, or Gotham by Midnight. My all-time favorite series (right now) is Booster Gold, which is pretty fun and light-hearted. But, since everyone has been talking up Archie books lately, particularly Afterlife with Archie, I decided to pick up the first volume, Escape from Riverdale.
All I knew going in was that it took the classic characters from Archie Comics, like Archie, Betty, and Veronica, and put them in the middle of some kind of zombie scenario. Since those books have traditionally been light-hearted, I thought I was in for a fun little “what if” type book.
I was wrong.
Fittingly, Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale ripped my guts out. I mean, I had tears in my eyes and I hugged everyone in my family during and after reading it. Including my dog. Especially my dog. Man.
As far as storytelling through the medium of sequential art goes, and horror goes, I don’t think it gets much better than this book. The story itself is heavy, quiet, dark. You quickly come to know and love characters, and then get crushed when death (or un-death) inevitably claims your Riverdale buddies.
I mention the sequential art medium in particular because this book excels in using the medium itself to enhance the story. The palette is mostly black and orange, which subconsciously twists sunny Riverdale into a nightmare immediately. Even though you know all the characters, you know something is awfully off. The book also at times intersperses flashback panels of better times with gruesome killings in a way that is both poignant and heartbreaking. It’s these human elements that makes the book so compelling. There stakes are high and everyone knows it, especially the reader.
As technically good as this book is, it was too good for my tastes. I don’t particularly enjoy most horror or zombie stories because they’re so depressing. While it was very good, I have no plans to ever read it again. If you are a fan of zombie stories and/or comics, definitely pick this up. If you enjoy life and smiling and not thinking about the mortality of everyone you love, run away. Run for your life before your best friends tear you apart as they look at you with undead, uncaring, unfeeling eyes and munch on your intestines.