Looks like my hopes for the Afterlife with Archie series going out with a bang in its (so far) final issue have been cruelly dashed; this tenth issue, which released five years ago, doesn’t even continue the incredibly compelling threads left dangling at the end of issue nine.

Instead, we’re introduced to some of the most popular non-Archie characters in the line: Josie and the Pussycats. The tale surprisingly takes us on a tour through the history of the band, from Josie’s birth in 1906(!), to her subsequent rebirth as a vampire – and then to present day Riverdale.

Though it’s another reference heavy tale that likes to wink at the camera about how Dickensian it is (and it covers a lot of references, from Interview with the Vampire to Dracula and much more besides), like the shoehorning in of the Cthulhu Mythos and an overload of ghost story references, they’re a little too blunt to be anything but slightly amusing. Even worse, some real world historic events are directly referenced, one in particular being in incredibly poor taste.

It’s actually a dense and well written tale that sets up a new and intriguing corner of the Archie Horrorverse (or whatever it was called!). Yet with this being the final issue since 2016, it looks as if the second story arc – RIP Betty – is never going to be finished, which is hugely frustrating. The main focus of the series – the Riverdale apocalypse – had so much going on and it got by without (for the most part) the knowing winks. Instead, it told a tale of the actual Riverdale teens and how they deal with their perfect lives being upended by a sudden, horrific zombie apocalypse. There was no need to turn any of them into vampires or any of that nonsense; the concept was strong enough that it worked brilliantly without those unnecessary twists being added on top.

It does feel as though Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa got too deep into pop culture references, few of which are particularly effective, and – just as the Cthulhu Mythos references were far too bluntly applied – the references here just take you out of the story, rather than make it any more believable or engaging. It goes without saying that Francesco Francavilla’s art is still superb and, as a standalone issue this would have been a pretty good story, but as the ending of what had (for the most part) been some of the strongest horror comics work I’d seen for a long time, it falls very far short. A real disappointment.

That said, if Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla were able to return and tie up the zombie apocalypse loose ends, I certainly wouldn’t complain. Five years after this tenth issue was published, however, I think it’s safe to say that isn’t going to happen.

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