I guess it's kind of a bandwagon thing to say these days, but I am (explitive deleted) sick of zombies! They are freaking everywhere, and I keep thinking to myself stuff like, when will it be the werewolves turn to shine? With this in mind, I still approached Afterlife With Archie with an open mind. Throwing what are normally considered all ages characters into a world with death and carnage can really open up the storytelling potential, you know? I'm happy to say that AwA #1, uses this springboard well, and while this issue was mostly all setup, I loved what it was setting up.
I've complained in the past that Archie writers lean on Sabrina and magic way too much to set up off the wall story premises, but this time it makes absolutely perfect sense, and the contagion is done in such a way that it can't just be undone by magic. There are real consequences in this book, and that's somehting that's going to make things very interesting in the future. Let's just say, don't make Sabrina's aunties angry.
Another strength of this book is how writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa writes the characters. Even if you've never read an Archie comic before, you can jump in the story without prior knowledge. I actually kind of found it like the opening of a teen horror movie, you start with the catalyst for terror, but you meet all of the Riverdale kids before things get hairy. They go about their normal lives like you'd expect normal teens to do. There is even a Scream-esque conversation between Chuck and Dilton about the Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween franchises. There is some real heart present as well. The whole shenannigans start just because of the love between a boy and his dog, and a good friend who could see herself in the same situation.
The only thing about the writing that felt a little off to me was the captioning. You get a few on the first page to set the scene, but the tone made it seem like a campfire story rather than a tale of true horror. Thankfully, the storytelling is superb and that is in big part because of the masterful work of Francesco Francavilla. The entire presentation of the book make it feel foreboding. Even the non-glossy cover kind of makes this comic feel like there is something just a little creepy about the physical book itself. Fracavilla's character designs are instantly familiar as Archie and the rest, but they also feel contemporary, and when it's time for blood and gore, the art delivers in spades. Zombie Jughead is just the right mix of creepy/scary.
That's the last time Mr. Weatherbee assigns Jug a detention!
The only minor knock I can give the art is that the pages have kind of a random blood spatter effect on them. This is cool most of the time, but there are a couple of instances where it is very distracting, like on the negative space of a characters hair, or too near the eyes. I guess it's supposed to be like your copy of the book is covered in blood, but sometime the effect just pulls you out the tale, which the opposite effect than intended.
One of the last things of note in the book happen after the story. There will be a letter column, which in my opinion is great. Also, there is a creator interview that among other things, intimates that the zombies in Afterlife are going to be a little different than the ones you've seen in other media. That tease alone is enough to get me to come back.
All in all, Afterlife With Archie #1 was a very well put together first issue with limitless possibilities and an engrossing atmosphere and story. I suggest you check it out, even if you're as sick of zombies as I am. It's well worth a look.