When the media revealed that there was going to be a zombie apocalypse within the Archie universe, most people wondered if this could work or not. Curiosity peaked my interest, but not enough to buy the individual issues, so I decided to wait for the trade paperback to be released, ergo, the collected first volume on digital format. This was it, Archies! Zombies! Volume one, which collects issues one through five with a lot of extra content, for a retail price of $17.99 and contains 210 pages, I decided to finally give it a try. From the beginning, page after page, panel after panel, it was hard to put this book down. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's story meshed with Francesco Francavilla's style of art made this first story arc a great read, and it was creepy in a way also.
Reading this book in silence is fine, but listening to musical scores from horror movies or video games in the background really makes you feel like you're in Riverdale with Archie and the gang. Not to mention, the creep factor rises as well. After all, the rating for this series is for teens+ so this is a clear indication that these Archie tales are not for kids. The look and feel for this version of Riverdale are spot on, and unlike a lot of other comic books out there, you don't just read this book, you feel like you're a part of the cast, sitting there, fearing for your life.
The horror starts off with someone running towards a house, and we find out it's Jughead, and he's come to the house of Sabrina Spellman in tears, because someone ran over his dog, Hot Dog. He seeks Sabrina and her aunt's Hilda and Zelda Spellman's help, since they're witches, but it's too late, there's no life left in Hot Dog...he's gone. They send Jughead away, but as he's walking away, Sabrina decides to go behind her aunt's backs and help Jughead bring Hot Dog back. Later that night, Sabrina shows up at Jughead's bedroom window, and tells him to meet her outside, by Hot Dog's doghouse and to bring a shovel. She takes him to a swamp where he is to bury Hot Dog while she recites an incantation. The next step is to go home and wait for the fated hour. Upon arriving home, Sabrina gets busted by her two aunts, where she receives a really bad punishment, to say the least, they're witches after all.
The next morning at Riverdale High School, all is normal. In P.E. class, sitting in the locker room is Reggie Mantle, and he almost confesses to Archie that he ran over Hot Dog the night before, but he couldn't come to his senses to tell him. During lunchtime, Archie sends Jughead a text to check in on him, since Jughead stayed home with "a stomach thing." That night, at the fated hour, Jughead hears growling and goes outside to see if it's Hot Dog. He sees Hot Dog, but he's growling very strange, and his face looks decayed. This is where the nightmare begins, as the resurrected Hot Dog bites Jughead on the arm, and things will never be the same.
The next day, which is eight hours after the first contagion, Archie pays a visit to his best pal Jughead. Here Archie sees Jughead coughing and not looking good. Archie's upset that Jughead's going to miss the school Halloween dance, and after the two friends converse, Archie heads to the school dance. At the school dance we see Betty and Veronica in their costumes, trying to impress Archie, but he doesn't want to get caught in the middle of this fracas. Outside the gym, the now undead Jughead shows up, bites people to create his "army" of the undead, and makes his way into the school dance floor. All of this excitement, and this concludes issue one.
The story continues with prologues and interludes of various characters, horror scenes from the school dance, and how some of the characters were able to escape and head to Lodge Manor, Veronica's house. We see backgrounds of some of the characters, heroes, and a difficult decision that Archie has to make. Jughead's army gets bigger and bigger. The end will make you want more, and it'll be interesting to see where these characters go from here. Who will live? Who will die and come back and join Jughead's army of zombies? Only time will tell, and we'll have to keep reading to find out.
Whether you're a fan of the Archies, a fan of Zombies, both, or are just curious about how they put a Zombie-infested Archie cast together, this is a must-read book. I'm always saying how hard it is to find that one perfect book, a true gem, well, this is one of them. Having said that, I give "Afterlife With Archie Volume 1: Escape From Riverdale" a five out of five stars, I can't recommend this book enough. What's nice about volume one, is that it has backup stories from "Chilling Adventures in Sorcery" from the 1970's, a cover art gallery, and layout sketch pages from artist Francesco Francavilla. So dim the lights, listen to horror soundtracks in the background, and read this series, it'll creep you out, but it's worth it, every moment. Every tear. Every moan, scream, and drop of blood. The reader is a part of the story as well. Lock your doors, don't make a sound...Jughead and his army are out there somewhere.