Creepy. Tense. Shocking. Bleak. Featuring scenes of heavily implied incestuous intent and possible patricide.

None of those things are what you expect to read in an Archie comic. And perhaps that’s part of what gives Afterlife with Archie it’s raw power to leave you in a gibbering mess by the end of issue 4.

This issue, the action is very much focused on Archie and his attempt to rescue his family; along with this are masterfully deployed flashbacks to fill in the necessary blanks for those readers not intimately familiar with Archie’s history – that also help to ground prior events in a more mature way than they would have been covered in Archie’s main series – and Archie’s dog Vegas proves himself to be the goodest boy. In parallel, rich kid siblings Jason and Cheryl have a heart to heart about whether or not to stay in their gated community – and Jason’s feelings are made somewhat ickily clear.

I’m not sure what sort of witchcraft Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla have engaged in during the creation of Afterlife with Archie, but their writing and art (respectively) just seems to constantly be outdoing the previous issues, despite the already high bars they’re setting for themselves. A montage of a horrific current event being juxtaposed with flashbacks in a pattern of three simple colours is genuinely one of the most effectively horrific and affecting sequences I have ever read in comics.

And I’ve been reading comics for a very long time, kids. I was born in the 70s after all, which – coincidentally – is the decade the backup story in this issue is from. It’s another Gray Morrow tale, like the one featured in issue 2 – this time, it’s about two opportunistic thieves who get their comeuppance when trying to rob a poor, defenceless old widow… who isn’t as defenceless as she seems.

Honestly, if I haven’t already made it clear: Afterlife with Archie is damn near unmissable. Brilliantly written, with near peerless art and usage of colour, it’s not only the perfect read for spooky season, but all year round. Prior familiarity with the Archie characters isn’t a must, but damn does that make the horror all the more effective.

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