This week I am going to talk about a book that really surprised me. I want to talk about Archie Comics’ Afterlife with Archie #7, “Betty: R.I.P” written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa with art by Francesco Francavilla.
I love Archie comics, I always have. They were some of the first comics I ever read and are definitely the comics that I reread most often. Don’t get me wrong, though—they have never been the best comics. They are light and fun and usually geared towards children. This comic, however, is far from that. It’s dark and gritty and pulls back the curtain of idyllic Riverdale to show you the darkness within.
The first six issues of the series are also very dark but came out quite a while ago so I won’t bother with reviewing them. In short, the first arc dealt with Jughead, Hotdog, and Sabrina. The story started out bleak and quickly progressed to bloody mayhem and beloved characters dying. Basically all you need to know is that several characters are now zombies; this all started because of Reggie, Hotdog, Jughead (Jugdead as they now call him), and Sabrina. Jughead is patient zero and “leader” of the zombies. Go read it; it’s worth it.
This issue is a continuation and shows the survivors leaving Riverdale and hitting the road. Between flashes of what is going on in the present is basically the origin story of Betty Cooper. She tells her story through excerpts from her diary and reveals some dark stuff about her past. Like her sister. Which blew my $*%&ing mind! Apparently Betty has a sister named Polly Cooper… who is kind of a jerk and a sociopath. She is mostly in flashbacks before Archie moves to town and leaves for some reason to a “home,” which seems to imply either jail or a hospital; in either case, the situation is understandably upsetting for both Betty and her mother. There are other dark bits, but I will let you find them yourself. I have to say, though, that the idea of Veronica’s bad attitude stemming from her dad’s constant adultery was surprisingly down-to-earth and realistic.
This entire series has been very well written and is clearly meant for an Archie Comics fan who, for lack of a better term, has outgrown the traditional Archie story. The story is real, gritty, and just awesome. It felt like a zombie story done right, closer to an issue of The Walking Dead than to the Archie tales of old. The art lends itself well to the story: The characters and backgrounds are very well drawn, the characters looking like appropriately aged people, not super young, giant-eyed cartoon characters.
A shocking 5/5 for this one; I may add this to my pull list.