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The series that changed Archie Comics forever, and apparently will never end. It’s the classic Archie Comics characters in a horror setting with a zombie invasion. Taking the timeless light characters and throwing them into a situation there is no turning back from is a risk. But a risk that they pulled off. It’s shocking, it’s horrific, it’s amazing. It also is unfinished. For unknown reasons the last issue that would comprise volume 2 has yet to be published.
This series begins with a tragic hit and run. Someone has hit Jughead’s precious pet, Hot Dog. Jughead runs to the only person he knows who may have access to help beyond that of modern vetrinary medicine. Sabrina. The teenage witch herself. Sabrina and her aunts inform Jughead that it’s too late. They could heal a living, even barely alive body. But Hot Dog has chased his tail to the great beyond. Jughead pleads to raise the dead, but that is evil black magic and they refuse.
For now, late at night Sabrina shows up at Jughead’s second story window. She offers to help and that’s when literal all hell breaks loose. Hot Dog comes back, but changed. He bites Jughead and that’s where this tale starts running. Or slowly shambling.
This first volume collects issues 1-6 of the title and only the first few hours of the outbreak. Flashbacks take place to build characters because – lets admit it – Archie comics don’t really dig deep on character motivation. That’s been the appeal to the franchise for decades. The artists may change the clothing, but for the most part the stories are evergreen. Everyone has their archetype to play and there’s never need for more than that. Except for a series like this and some of the other titles Archie released around the same time.
The drama, the character development, the horror on every page is incredible. There is no good reason that the teens in Riverdale should be so captivating, even in this environment. But a scary story that also involves characters of great personality traits crafts the story. The greed of the Lodges. The optimism of Betty. The nobility of Archie. The hunger of Jughead.
Written with a love of all characters, this is the story of the entire town. The teachers, Pop’s, the Blossoms. If your favorite supporting character hasn’t shown up, it’s only because their debut will move the story forward later. Unique art from any Archie title. While the house style was known for decades, this change not only works for the more adult story, but also to create an atmosphere. This is the familiar Archie, but different. Darker pencils, inks, and colors from the beginning. Throwing the reader off center, off balance, just as all of Riverdale High is about to feel.
I constantly was surprised by what happened throughout the book. Amazed by the skill of understanding or empathizing with every character’s choices. So many horror movies cause viewers to scream at the stupidity on screen. None of that here. Even choices that the reader may not fantasize they would do in such a situation, are at least understandable.
For readers of comics, lovers of horror, or even just people who enjoy taking something from their childhood and spinning it to a more adult take, this series is perfect.
If only Archie would finally finish the story.