When Archie Comics announced Afterlife with Archie, a new horror take on their timeless characters, I couldn't decide if the announcement was an elaborate prank or a masterful stroke of genius. With topnotch talent and a premise that surprisingly hasn't been touched upon, Archie Comics' first "adult" comic might be the best comic of 2013. Afterlife with Archie is a dark, somber take on the Archie characters that gleefully embraces the teen horror genre. Written by Harvey Award winner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa with art by Francesco Francavilla, the debut issue is a must read.
Like most Archie Comics, Afterlife with Archie hinges around a basic plot. After Jughead's dog is killed by an errant driver, Sabrina the Teenage Witch attempts to resurrect the animal with disastrous consequences. Meanwhile, Archie deals with his typical girl issue as the Halloween Dance looms over the school. However, Aguirre-Sacasa quickly establishes that this isn't your typical Archie comic. The characters are a bit more serious and nuanced while dealing with storylines pulled straight out of a horror movie. However, the series doesn't sacrifice the Archie charm entirely. Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead maintain the timeless core of their characters, they're just tweaked a bit now that they don't have to behave in an "all ages" manner.
The highlight of this issue is Francesco Francavilla's art. He really drives home the horror elements of the book, from Sabrina's ghoulish aunts to Jughead and Hot Dog's transformed appearances. Francavilla takes what could be a hokey concept and turns it into a genuinely frightening comic book, complete with blood, gore and horror. The layouts and coloring all perfectly play into the "teen horror movie" vibe. In particular, the coloring in Afterlife with Archie is top-notch, and is sure to merit award consideration next year.
To be blunt, Afterlife with Archie is everything you wouldn't expect from an Archie series. Mature, dark and fun, the series is a potential award winner, a smash hit by a top-notch creative team. If you like horror or fantastic art, pick up Afterlife with Archie today.