Saturday, 28 February 2015

COMICS SUCK! - Afterlife With Archie #7 (February 2015)

NOW - February 2015
Cover artwork by Francesco Frankavilla.
"Dear Diary"
By Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (w); Francesco Frankavilla (a, c) & Jack Morelli (l)
Never in my life did I imagine I would become an Archie fan. No, not never ever. But when I found out that Francesco Frankavilla was doing a series called Afterlife with Archie, my ears perked up after a brief initial bout of disgust and disappointment. What do you mean "After" life with Archie? This could be good, and with one of my favorite artists under center, hell, this could be great!

Long story short, it is.

Comics dealers can't keep these issues on the shelves and the book consistently sells out at my local shops. Archie Comics has had to do multiple printings multiple times to fulfill demand (including this issue) and a mint condition, first print copy of issue 1 (only a little over a year old) will easily fetch ~$80. So what's so special about it?

It's just fun, this is the funnest thing out there in comics today. The art is over the top greatness personified. Like Jim Starlin before him, Frankavilla does his own colors as well as inks and the results are a stunning display of a singular vision from one of the strongest artists in comics today. From his sense of design down to his color palette, each page is a separate, standalone, gallery quality work of art. His stark style is punctuated by thick layers of orange and purple hues to hammer home that playful Halloween spirit while staying true to the horror of what's presented.

Art and colors by Frankavilla.
The story is fun too. This is going to sound like a dig, but the story and the images chosen to tell it are a patchwork of cliches, tropes, pastiche and things remembered in the flickering glow of the television. It's not really horror. That is to say, it's about as horror, it's as much intended to scare as Halloween. Which is to say not much. Because the thing is, it's just fun. There's much to be said about zombie Jughead (Jugdead) shambling toward "camera", arms out, crown akimbo. Is it scary? Not really. But is it cool, some kind of sick wish fulfillment given life (or death)? Absolutely. All of that said, there are moments that thrill. It's hard to believe I'm actually saying these things about an Archie comic, yet here we are.

This particular issue is Part 2 of the second storyline, "Betty: R.I.P." The first 5-issue storyline, "Escape From Riverdale" was a love letter to classic zombie films, particularly those of George Romero: while barricaded and shuttered from the outside world, the quirky teens of Riverdale discover only too late that the threat comes from within. Parts of "Betty: R.I.P." are clearly an homage to H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, particularly the Innsmouth cycle. This issue in particular stands alone, which is another plus mark considering how long readers had to wait for it to come out. It's about Betty re-writing her now destroyed diary from memory and it's got heart.

The one flaw of this book, and it's a major flaw, is that it's published so sporadically. Only 5 issues were released all of last year. This issue is the follow up to one cover dated October 2014. And yet, what sacrifice would readers be willing to make? Frankavilla's artwork is as gorgeous as anything out there and it seems the production of it is painstaking. Afterlife With Archie is probably not for everyone, for those with a love for the fun aspects of Halloween, this series is ESSENTIAL READING.

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