Afterlife with Archie:
Escape From Riverdale
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Archie Comic Publications, 2014
To my surprise, the new series taking the comic-book store by storm is not written tongue-in-cheek… but it is based on a Life with Archie cover that probably was. …And so, finally someone addresses the question that has been nagging at the back of our (collective) minds since our parents were teenagers: What would happen if the zombie apocalypse started at good old Riverdale High?
Jughead appears at Sabrina (the Teenage Witch)’s front door in the middle of the night. Someone accidentally hit his pet Dog with a car, (Yup, it was Reggie,) and Jughead has it in his head that Sabrina is a necromancer. He begs her to bring Hot Dog back to life, and at first she refuses, remembering her aunts’ warnings, hinting at a price similar to that in The Monkey’s Paw, where you might not like what comes back. But after contemplating what it would be like to have lost her beloved pet Salem, Sabrina digs up an old spell and raises Hot Dog from the dead. This lands her a year in the Nether-Realm sans her magic (and conveniently allows for a spin-off comic).
The comic is drawn with a realism that makes one truly appreciate the renditions of Betty and Veronica in Halloween costumes. It holds no punches as it explores a lesbian relationship between Ginger and Nancy and a pretty weird …something… going on between Jason and Cheryl Blossom. But the staples remain intact; Moose and Midge bite it together, Betty and Veronica walk a tightrope between rivalry and friendship competing for the redhead’s attention, and Archie is even dressed as Pureheart the Powerful at the costume dance.
At the Halloween costume ball at the high school, (Ronnie is a perfect Vampirella,) a dark silhouette darkens the doorway. Juggie’s been bitten by a dog with distemper, and he’s really feeling dead on his feet. So he takes a bite out of Big Ethel, and gets dragged off by his friends until Principal Weatherbee and Ms. Grundy show up to really kick the apocalypse into gear.
Mr. Lodge, I’ve been trying to sneak into your daughter’s room for as long as I can remember, and I know what a fortress this place is…
Archie leads the unaffected kids to safety at the Lodge mansion, but someone’s already been infected! We see into the personal lives of Mr. Lodge and Archie as they flashback. Archie goes looking for his parents, and ends up collapsing his own father’s skull with a baseball bat. (Did I mention that my local comic shop displays this title on the kids rack next to Betty and Veronica and Sonic the Hedgehog?)
Vegas protects Archie when a zombified Hot Dog corners him. He doesn’t make it, but sacrifices himself for his master.
The standard “holed-up and watching the undead mill about on security cameras” angst plays out at the mansion, and there is an argument as to whether they should all stay put where it’s “safe” or make a run for it. But the food supply is limited and the generators will eventually run out of fuel, so we transition away from the mansion at the end, the first five issues of the comic book becoming a prelude to what I hope will be a long-running series.
Good luck finding first printings of the original comics. That’s OK, because they started reprinting them in magazine format, only with extras in the old Warren (Creepy and Eerie Magazines) tradition. Now might be a good time to pick up issue number six (with sexy variant cover) along with starting your collection of the Sabrina spinoff as well!