It occurred to me as I read (and then reviewed) the 2021 Archie Halloween Spectacular that – despite my thoughts in that article – Archie comics have taken some very surprising, sometimes shocking, deviations from their very conservative, family friendly stories over the years, albeit rarely.

Afterlife with Archie is one of those deviations: a horror comic in which the normally serene suburban setting of Riverdale has to contend with a very real and consequently very scary zombie outbreak.

Though things start off innocently enough here – despite a slightly more adult tone in the writing and the glorious artwork – they soon go south with the death of Jughead’s beloved dog. Wracked with grief, Jughead seeks help from an unlikely source – setting in motion a chain of events that could very well lead to the end of life as we know it in Riverdale and beyond.

What’s great about Afterlife with Archie is that writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa doesn’t nod or wink at the camera with his script; it’s all played straight. Given that this takes place in the normally safe confines of both Riverdale and the pages of an Archie comic, that alone is unsettling enough, but what truly elevates the material is Francesco Francavilla’s absolutely astonishing art; it’s brilliantly drawn, wonderfully coloured and genuinely scary at times. There’s an incredible sense of foreboding and general creepiness even in the build up to the scares.

It feels as if the creative team can’t quite believe they’ve got the green light to tear Riverdale down and consequently, they’re making the most of the opportunity. It’s stunning stuff – and I can’t wait to dig into more of the series.

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