Monday, January 13, 2014

REVIEW: Afterlife With Archie #1

Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Review: Will Dubbeld
Never did I foresee myself buying an Archie comic.
I know Archie is an elder statesman, having been a part of comicdom since the 40s. Who has been reading Archie Comics in a great enough number to keep it afloat since the 40s is beyond me, but evidently there is a strong enough presence to keep going. It may have something to do with Archie being a male wish fulfillment character, what with a pair of coed beauties always vying for his attentions, but that's speculation on my part. Seniority doesn't automatically merit  spot on my pull list, however. Even as a foolish lad in the freewheeling 90s I opted out of Archie Meets Punisher. 
Or Punisher Kills Riverdale, whatever the hell it was called. I vaguely remember there being an Archie cartoon I tuned in to as a youth, but that's about as far down the rabbit hole as I was willing to go for Archie and the Gang.
The zombie pop-culture phenomenon was another matter entirely. I'm not sure where to place the blame for the popularity of zombies as the zombie apocalypse, but I'm sure it's a cultural allegory for the current geopolitical state of the world descending into chaos, madness, consumerism and war. It perhaps appeals to our racial subconscious on some primal level, but in any case it has TAKEN OVER. Zombie Walks, Marvel Zombies, The Walking Dead, World War Z, countless direct to DVD features, and yes, Zombie Archie. 
I'm largely over the zombie movement, having beat the curve (sounding like a true hipster...) a few years ago. I mean, I'm grateful for it largely rescuing us from Sparkly Vampires, but enough is enough. I've thrown in the towel on The Walking Dead.
Oddly enough, the thought of a Zombie Archieverse appealed to my sense of "what the-?!!" and I ended up ordering the book. 
 I chose wisely.
This isn't a kids book, dear readers. I mean, we're not talking a hard R-rated Archie, but it's thematically dark and folks do get et by zombies.
The setup for this series is beautiful. In addition to the Riverdale gang, another Archie Comics intellectual property is Sabrina. As in the Teenage Witch. As in television show starring Melissa Joan Hart. Sabrina the Teenage Witch lives on the border of Riverdale and Greendale, which I can only presume is Sabrina's fictional stomping ground, and that, dear readers, opens the door on all kinds of crossover potential.
Like Jughead showing up on Sabrina's doorstep with the body of his roadkill dog.
Who's name is Hot Dog, but whatever.
Poor, brokenhearted, dumb-hatted Jughead wants Sabrina to resurrect Hot Dog, but that sort of foul necromancy is verboten by her witch-aunts!
Because I guess Sabrina and her aunts have a witch coven and must abide by certain White Magic rules, I dunno, I don't really have much insight on Sabrina the Teenage Witch other than impure thoughts about Melissa Joan Hart circa 1996.
Poor, brokenhearted dumb-hatted Jughead is turned away, left to bury the remains of Hot Dog.
Hot Dog, for cryin' out loud...
Evidently, Sabrina is a Soft-Hearted Teenage Witch and her emotions get the better of her. Against the rules lain down by her witches coven, Sabrina turns to her family's tome of verboten, eldritch lore and employs fell magicks to raise poor Hot Dog from the dead. As an aside, the grimoire Sabrina uses to breathe life into Jugheads dog was the Necronomicon. 
This is gettin' good.
Now, we all know nothing good comes from meddling with the Necronomicon. Nothing. That's first year Evil Dead stuff. It should come as no surprise that Hot Dog comes back from the realm of the dead less than whole.
Like, y'know, zombie dog.
Zombie dog bites man. Man with stupid hat becomes patient zero in the Riverdale Zombie Apocalypse.
In true horror trope, the backdrop for this apocalypse will be the Riverdale High School Halloween Dance. Brilliant.
A handful of other characters from the Archie mythos appear, our titular Archie, antagonist Reggie, Betty and Veronica, and a few others, but quite frankly every one of them has 'victim' written across the forehead. Every. Single. One.
Which is great, because you don't know who's going to make it out of this. Will infection get into Archie's hand, forcing him to lop it off at the wrist? Will Betty fulfill her destiny as the Final Girl? Who knows, but I am eager to find out.
Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa does an admirable job of taking two things that are polar opposites and portmanteau them into something wonderful.
He's taken strawberry ice cream and sauerkraut and made it taste good. The man understands horror, and is at able to use horror conventions admirably. The book is very tongue in cheek, which is to be expected from a zombie book starring Archie Andrews.
Francesco Francavilla's art nails it, once again. This guy's doing some fantastic work. I wasn't in love with his take on Guardians of the Galaxy, I think he's better used in the non-spandex realm of comics, but his work here and on Black Beetle are amazing. Zombie Jughead is a sight to behold...
The man might just be in the running for a Hammy.
Afterlife With Archie isn't going to sell me on Archie Comics. It's a great gimmick, but I won't stick around after the series conclusion. It has rekindled a small torch for the zombie pop-phenom, but I'm still not gonna buy Walking Dead.
By the way, Sabrina gets banished to a nether-realm for harnessing foul necromancies and jumpstarting a zombie apocalypse.
As an aside, I presume there is something of a reading audience for the Hammond Comics Blog, and I presume a small percentage of said theoretical readership has been wondering where the hell their reviews have been and if the site is dead. Between jobs, moving, personal business, a general lackadaisical inactivity, and other excuses, we the Hammond Comics Blog staff have been less than productive. 
And for that I apologize.
Fear not, readers,  Mr. Black, Mr. Davis, Madman and myself made a solemn vow on the grave of Thomas and Martha Wayne to resurrect the HCB in 2014.
Besides, it's comics.
Nothing stays dead forever.

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