Archie and the gang celebrate Christmas. Considering how bizarre the weather has been around the country this year, which makes it feel a little less strange to be reading this issue in May. Is it good?
Afterlife With Archie #8 (Archie Comics)
This issue opens with Archie talking to someone about Cheryl (AKA Blaze) killing Jason. As he explores the possibility of it being a murder rather and an act of self-defense, it’s revealed that Archie’s companion is none other than the ghost of Jughead.
Okay, right here is where I began rolling my eyes. Then I stopped. If Robert Aguirre-Sacasa has earned anything from his masterful work on this series, it’s trust in the fact that he will handle the zombie genre tropes with care (and not make Jughead as annoying as Ghost Lori from The Walking Dead).
“I may have started the apocalypse, but at least I’m not insufferable.”
As the pair’s conversation continues, it becomes more and more apparent how great the chemistry between these two characters is. It’s a part of the Archie mythos that absolutely needed to be revisited and makes for a great lens to examine the gang’s current state.
About the only place Aguirre-Sacasa stumbles is in Archie’s retelling of the group voting on whether or not Cheryl should be allowed to stay with them. After some awesome references to Survivor and Lord of the Flies, things venture a little too far into the melodramatic.
But after that, the story gets downright creepy (in a good way). While Archie makes a final decision on the decades old Betty and Veronica debate, Reggie starts having some visions that make the cool The Shining variant cover for this issue quite a bit more relevant. The issue’s greatest revelation, however, involves the explanation for why all of Riverdale’s kids are only children, why the town has always seemed so ‘pure and innocent’….and whatever happened to Jughead’s sister, Jellybean.
Is It Good?
I’m not sure how he keeps doing it, but Aguirre-Sacasa is making Archie Comics into the best horror comic on the shelves right now. Even in an action-lite issue like this, the atmosphere he and Francavilla create is genuinely chilling.
The real master stroke of this one, though, is the secret history of Riverdale. It adds a truly sinister layer to the series that’s far more horrifying than the dead rising to kill the living. I’m not an expert on Archie Comics, but the references used to develop the narrative are mind-blowingly clever (and good).
About the only place this one falters a bit is the voting scene, which was the first time Afterlife with Archie has ever felt at all cheesy. After 8 issues of blood curdling horror in the Archie universe, I think that can be forgiven.
It should also go without saying that Francesco Francavilla’s art is outstanding. After proving how well he can draw gore and monsters in the first six issues, these last two installments have showcased what a great storyteller he is, too.
Sometimes I feel like a revival preacher shouting about how great this series is, but that’s because I used to be a nonbeliever. I ignored all the other great reviews with the snobbish refrain of “Yeah, but it’s Archie.” If you’re like me and have been ignoring Afterlife with Archie for the same reason, stop what you’re doing and go pick it up right now. If you don’t like it, I’ll owe you a soda at Pop Tate’s.