Comic Book Review: Afterlife With Archie #9

In Archie Comics, Comic Books, Reviews by Regan Lorie5 Comments

imageThis spring, Archie Horror is back with a vengeance. After the stunning return of its acclaimed Sabrina series last month, the imprint revives its insanely popular flagship series Afterlife With Archie, dropping the ninth installment of the Riverdale zombiefest June 1 after a much longer break than its fans would have liked. But hey, quality takes time.
We begin what is now the fourth chapter of the “Betty: R.I.P.” story arc by shifting our focus to Riverdale’s resident perpetual dick, one Reggie Mantle, submitted for our disapproval. Consumed with guilt over being the catalyst for the zombie infestation, he has retreated into self-imposed isolation, dwelling upon fantasies of Midge and delusions of heroic grandeur to counter the burgeoning fear of his own villainy. An eventual confession of his crimes against Hot Dog and Jughead (and, by proxy, everyone else in Riverdale) lead Reggie down a path of possible redemption…or self-destruction.
Bravo to writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa for giving us Reggie in what is by far his most complex, humanized portrayal to date. True, it took him causing a zombie apocalypse and several people (and a dog) dying to get there, but his remorse and desperation to be a hero oozes from every orange-tinted panel, as does his fear of being–and grief at knowing he is–the antithesis of a hero, a textbook sociopath (according to an online quiz taken in one of his flashback to better-ish days with the gang). Even for all of his grave misdeeds this time around, this Reggie is refreshingly vulnerable and multi-dimensional: hopeful, idealistic, melancholy, a far cry from the douchebag Reggie of yore. Given the nature of its featured player, this issue was lighter than usual on the cheeky little bursts of humor throughout, despite kicking things off with a dose of satire in the form of a fun Goofus and Gallant parody starring Archie and Reggie as the do-and-don’t doyens of proper conduct.
Every issue we are treated to the classic-yet-modern art stylings of Archie Comics fixture Francesco Francavilla, whose work is an absolutely indispensable part of the Afterlife series. Fans turn those pages fully expecting the same Halloween-hued excellence Francavilla infallibly delivers every time. The nod to Goofus and Gallant in particular shows a more versatile side of the artist, one capable of paying tribute to recognizable works without complete surrender to the reference material. As a team, Sacasa and Francavilla never disappoint, and this latest issue is no exception.
I could not be more excited to see new issues of Archie Horror’s top titles on store shelves (or not due to selling out, as the case may be and often is), and as usual both Sabrina and Afterlife were worth every second of the long wait. Let’s hope these long breaks don’t become a thing for either series, but admittedly either way I (and all the other hungry Archie fans out there) will be right here, ready and waiting for what happens next.