Story by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by: Francesco Francavilla
As many of us know by now, “Afterlife With Archie” is the Archie comic for people who may have never picked up an Archie before in their lives. Which is liberating to newcomers of the Archie brand because it still reads interesting and gripping and engaging without all that historical context to keep in mind. But I have said and will continue to say, “Afterlife With Archie” is especially an Archie comic for Archie fans; you do not need to catch the subtle references and easter eggs to enjoy the story, but for me, they never get old.
Issue #8 is no exception, which finally begins to push the story into a truly transformative direction. It is hard to top the iconic issue #4 which showed us Archie’s family pathos splattered all across the walls, but #8 not only delivers but hits the reader with punches that were well worth waiting for. Aguirre-Sacasa is subtle with his character development, but effective: Cheryl/Blaze Blossom’s final stand against her brother knocks upon every other character in a domino effect, bringing forth insights before now were only implied. Lines are drawn in the sand; this is not a journey toward survival that has one right answer, or one that everyone in even this small group is agreed upon.
With Jason Blossom dead, Reggie Mantle seems content with filling the group’s “scumbag” role as his own twisted coping mechanism, while Kevin Keller makes a dramatic point of staying in his own lane. Nancy Woods is all too aware of her respective vulnerability in a group composed mostly of her straight white peers — a point which is handled with grace and suggests we can expect more soon from her storyline with Chuck Clayton and Ginger Lopez. Archie, of course, has stepped up the most, a surprisingly mature and stabilizing figure in the story thus far, although if you’re like me, you may take away from the end of this issue that he might not remain in that role much longer. It seems silly to take for granted that the death slated for issue #9 necessarily must be Betty’s, despite the title (Betty R.I.P.) of this storyline.
More importantly, this issue moved the plot forward by tying in the Riverdale crowd back into the Greendale mythos, Sabrina and her aunties, by introducing us to a historical pact made between Archie,Betty, and Jughead’s ancestors and the Greendale witches that ties in heavily to Jughead’s fate, as well as that of his younger sister Jellybean. This extra-long issue was absolutely dripping with plot, psychologically tormenting (or in some cases, purely intriguing) character development, and I couldn’t be happier.
Finally, I would be remiss not to comment on the art. While I am always a big fan of Francavilla’s, this issue — I say with simultaneous hesitation and certainty — was one of his best. His art suits the gothic-style flashback panels to a T, and the way he uses colors in Afterlife continues to take my breath away. It’s a perfect marriage of cold shadows and warm highlights, stunning environments, and of course, beautiful, expressive faces. Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla as a team create a world you can seamlessly dunk your fingers into and actually feel at the back of your neck; I cannot wait for the next issue, and that’s not only because Reggie is my favorite character. (Promise!)
Reviewed by new contributor: Gabbie Gross