Last year I picked up and read a copy of Afterlife with Archie. It was unexpected, surprisingly intelligent and utterly BRILLIANT! And it reminded me of how I loved reading Archie comics as a kid. So I hopped online and ordered a selection of Archie graphic novels. Did they meet my expectations? Were they all as brilliant as Afterlife with Archie? Read on and find out…
|Afterlife with Archie Book 1: Escape From Riverdale (2014) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla
This graphic novel is about the zombie apocalypse starting in Riverdale. I expected it to be a bit of diversionary fun – something amusing and silly. But what I got was something unexpectedly BRILLIANT! It’s dark and broody, intelligent and with a surprising amount of heart and pathos. The story takes the clichéd, caricature-ish inhabitants of Riverdale and turns them into real people – and then starts killing them off. There are genuinely brutal and disturbing scenes in this book – made more so by the fact that you feel like you know the people it’s happening to (after all, even if you haven’t read the Archie comics, the characters are such an ingrained part of popular culture). The artwork is stunning. Rather than the cartoony style of standard Archie comics, this one is dark, gritty and more realistic. If you only ever read one Archie graphic novel, make it this one!
|Archie: The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. (2011) by Tom Defalco and Fernando Ruiz
This is a cool little spy send-up. There is nothing particularly earth-shattering or game-changing about this book. In fact, it’s a bit on the clichéd side. The characters and the set-up of the Archie universe are not tampered with too much. But it is enjoyable. And there are lots of cute pop culture references. This book also includes a never before published story from the mid-1950s about Archie’s cousin Andy Andrews, in a cold-war story called “The Iron Curtain Caper”. The book is worth it for that alone.
|Archie: Cyber Adventures (2011) by Stephen Oswald and Joe Staton
Silly but fun. Leave your brain at the door and it’s possible to enjoy this ridiculous story of Archie and the gang being sucked into the virtual world.
|Archie Meets Kiss (2012) by Alex Segura and Dan Parent
OMG, this is awful! Any potential it may have had to be witty and silly fun is thrown out the window by the terrible plotting. It is so badly written that it is embarrassing. There is no nice way to say this – it is a cringe-worthy piece of CRAP!
|Archie Marries… (2010) by Michael Uslan, Stan Goldberg and Bob Smith
Now this one is really interesting. Archie walks up Memory Lane (instead of down) and gets a glimpse of possible futures. It is a twin-storyline set in parallel timelines — in one Archie marries Veronica; in the other Betty. It takes a mature approach to the subject matter, while still retaining the fun you come to expect from the Archie comics. Well worth reading. I’ve got the lovely hardcover edition that’s presented in a slipcase with a cut-out heart.
I started with brilliance… and thankfully concluded with it as well…
|The Death of Archie: A Life Celebrated (2014) by Paul Kupperberg, Pat Kennedy, Tim Kennedy and Fernando Ruiz
Wow! It takes the idyllic fantasy setting of all-American Riverdale and thrusts it into the real world. Yes (spoiler alert) Archie does DIE in this. But it’s not the fact that he dies that makes this book special… it is the way it is handled. It pulls no punches. It is very matter-of-fact about it. But it also gives Archie fans a chance to look back, as the residents of Riverdale grieve and remember him. Outstanding stuff.
So… what did I learn from all of this? That most Archie comics are probably fun but uninspiring. But that when an established pop culture icon is experimented with, extraordinary things can happen.
The story begun in volume one of Afterlife with Archie is continuing in single issues, and a second collected volume is due for release in Feb 2017. I’ll be getting it. I might also seek out a few of the other more unusual ones including the two weird cross-overs Archie vs Predator and Archie Meets Glee, and spinoff Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Catch ya later, George
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