Sharing milkshakes. Fun little love triangles. Bumbling high-school principals. This week, that's all done. Zombies are going eat the brains out of Reggie, Mr Weatherbee and those polar-opposite Archie-lovers Betty and Veronica. Sound cheesy? It's not. It's actually damn creepy.
For decades, the Archie comics universe has stood for all that wholesome and humorous about adolescence in America. But, the new Afterlife with Archie miniseries has Riverdale‑the fictional suburban hometown to Jughead, Dilton and Sabrina the Teenage Witch — becoming the latest epicentre of a zombie apocalypse.
Afterlife with Archie might seem like an attempt to cash-in on the current popularity of zombie-centric entertainments but it's actually pretty good. The darker tone doesn't betray the historically inoffensive tone of the Archie ethos, even if there's necromancy in the air. And the event that gets the horror started in the first issue is actually sad and poignant.
Francesco Francavilla proves that he's one of the most versatile artists working today, handling the task of giving modern looks to these familiar characters with ease. He also manages to show just enough gore and viscera in these pages to give the proceedings real bite. The dialogue is scaled up in similar fashion, too, and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has the Riverdale crew sounding like modern-day young people without venturing into painfully hip territory. You'll cringe as Betty and Veronica fling bitchy insults at each other but will also realise this is what they'd sound like if they walked past you on the sidewalk today.
This is a fun and fucked-up editorial offering. If you've loved Archie characters in the past, it might be painful to read. But if you've hated them, well, go get the popcorn. They're getting the horrible ends you've always wanted.