Following the conclusion of the first story arc in Afterlife with Archie, the series continues – picking up on a loose thread from the first issue and taking things in a very unexpected direction.

When Jughead’s beloved canine companion Hot Dog dies, he’s consumed with grief and can’t accept his loss. He turns to the Archie-verse’s most famous witch, Sabrina, who inadvertently kicks off the zombie apocalypse in bringing Hot Dog back from the dead. Banished to the Nether-Realm by her aunts, her whereabouts remained unknown as Riverdale fell to the undead. Until now.

This tale, which seems to take place in a fairly open asylum, run by a Doctor Lovecraft (who looks exactly like the writer he’s clearly based on), sees Sabrina having issues with reality and dreams colliding; unsure of what is real and what is imagined. Was she even a witch in the ‘real’ world? Were her aunts real or were they also part of Sabrina’s elaborate fantasies?

There’s a real cleverness to the concept and yes, once again Francesco Francavilla has produced some truly spectacular art – but the problem is that the Lovecraft references are laid on so thick and take such prominence that it starts to feel less like a Sabrina/Archie tale and more like a series of characters, scenes and concepts from a variety of Lovecraft stories. It’s great to see Francavilla’s take on Deep Ones, Cthulhu and much more besides – but as smartly written as it is, it can’t help but feel a little too reliant on being overtly Lovecraftian for its own good.

That’s not to say it isn’t an enjoyable read, but where the first story arc worked so beautifully was in placing the Archie characters into an apocalyptic situation without any overt nods and winks to camera; this issue, unfortunately, feels like nothing but those nods and winks.

So yes, it’s well written and visually spectacular, but the high bar set by the first story arc was always going to be tough to reach – it doesn’t get there, but it’s a decent enough read nonetheless. Had the Lovecraftian elements been a bit less in-your-face, this issue would have been a lot more effective.

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