Afterlife With Archie demonstrates exactly why we need the saccharine Americana of the Archieverse.
Much like the infamous Archie Meets The Punisher, this zombies-in-Riverdale horrorfest wouldn't work as well without the context brought to the story by decades of Happy Days-esque escapades from Archie Andrews and his chums.
Thanks to writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and the cool artwork of Francesco Francavilla, Afterlife With Archie is immediately the comic you should be reading if you're into zombies - and have, at least, a passing knowledge of the Archie titles.
It all starts when Jughead's dog, Hot Dog, is mown down in a hit-and-run. Naturally he takes the pooch to Sabrina in the hope that she, or her aunts, can magically heal the dog. Unfortunately it's too late as Hot Dog is already dead.
However, Sabrina feels bad and steals away with the family edition of the Necronomicon (I mean, what family doesn't have the ultimate Lovecraftian tome in their library?) and helps Jughead raise his prized pet from the dead.
Unfortunately, the Hot Dog that returns isn't the Hot Dog that Jughead loves, but a slavering undead monster that takes a bite out of his arm... and begins the infestation of wholesome Riverdale and its environs.
Afterlife With Archie is a straight-forward (so far) zombie tale, mixed in with some magical mischief (Sabrina's terrifying aunts are not happy when they discover what she has done and her punishment is clearly a key element in the on-going storyline).
Although my knowledge of Archie comics is quite cursory, I'd say Aguirre-Sacasa's characterisation is spot-on, while Francavilla's art gives the normally cartoony characters an almost realistic appearance (which makes Jughead's "crown" all the more disturbing).
A key element to the comic's success is that it works, every character's actions and reactions are wholly convincing and it is this essential Truth that carries the reader along a dark and winding road.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but on the strength of this first issue this is simply a brilliant book and I can't wait to see how dark things go in Riverdale as zombie-Jughead spreads the love among his classmates.
If the title can maintain the standard set in its first issue, I can easily see Afterlife With Archie being my favourite comic of the year.