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Afterlife with Archie #7 is an Emotional Character Study for Betty

Afterlife with Archie #7 is an Emotional Character Study for Betty

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Afterlife with Archie #7
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by Francesco Francavila
Published by Archie Comics

After last issue’s Sabrina is the bride of Cthulhu cosmic horror tale, Afterlife with Archie returns the focus to the remaining Riverdale survivors, especially Betty. The story is told from her POV, and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sicasa truly humanizes the various members of the Archie gang with its honesty, vulnerability, and unexpected non-soapiness. There is horror too, but the red-haired, a little too close for siblings Jason and Cheryl Blossom might be scarier than “Jugdead” and the other zombies. Feelings of fear, sadness, and romance are all conveyed by artist Francesco Francavilla’s mastery of light and shadow, color, and using a different amount of lines for each scene. For example, he covers Betty’s sister Polly in shadow during her childhood flashbacks, which hints at a tragic turn of events for Polly. As well as shifting the color palette, Francavilla uses a different amount of details to show readers where the story is on the timeline from Archie’s bright cartoonish face and “A” sweater when he meets Betty for the first time to his more detailed, stubbly face as he leads the Riverdale survivors away from the zombies. Afterlife with Archie #7 is another virtuoso performance for Francavilla’s art, but Aguirre-Sicasa continues to flesh out Archie and the gang while inching forward the ongoing plot.

Roberto Aguirre-Sicasa knows that the best horror and zombie stories are the ones where the audience connects to and empathizes with the characters. This is why Afterlife with Archie #7 (for the most part) takes a break from the scares and adds depth and personality to its ensemble cast. The Big Three of Archie, Betty, and Veronica continue to be the focus of the story (as it should be), but Aguirre-Sicasa uses the other Riverdale inhabitants for humor or horror purposes. Kevin is a goofy kid, who calls the zombies “Jugdead” and “the horde”, but he is also an able leader and goes on the majority of the recon missions. And then there is Cheryl and Jason, who Francavilla colors in the sickliest white and brightest red. Their flashback with their parents is more than it seems and is a subtle satire of the Archie comics where the characters seemed a little too “pure” and wholesome.

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Francavilla uses close-up panels in emotional scenes with Betty to show how taxing life is in general and not just during the comics-afterlife-with-archie-7-02zombie apocalypse. Aguirre-Sicasa makes the diary writing framing device go beyond a gimmick for exposition and purple prose, but uses it show the moments in Betty’s life that meant the most to her from arguments with Polly to having the perfect date with Archie. It also ties in with Afterlife with Archie‘s theme of keeping one’s humanity in the face of unspeakable death and horror. This is why the pacing of the comic is slower so that readers can get into the heads of Betty and the other kids and people of Riverdale, whose perfect lives have turned a complete 180.

Francesco Francavilla’s ability to evoke atmosphere in Afterlife  with Archie #7 begins with the gutters and panel borders. When Betty is young and naive, the panels are shaped like dog-eared diary pages, and during the more “horror” scenes, the gutter is pitch black and bleeds into the panels. But the aspect of Francavilla’s art that pops out the most to me is his skill with shadow and color. The two page splash page of the remaining citizens holding a funeral for the undead Riverdalers is wreathed in shadow to show that these threatening characters will return soon (and they do), but there is a touch of yellow through Afterlife that shows the little bit of hope that Betty has, mostly in Archie’s leadership and love. Each page of Afterlife with Archie #7 is unique in line detail, panel layout, and color scheme, but the shift between the idyllic cartooning of Betty, Archie, and Veronica’s high school days to their current life as post-apocalyptic survivors isn’t jarring because he keeps the iconic elements of the characters, like hair color or the “R” on Archie’s sweater. Afterlife with Archie #7 is another character-driven, atmospheric treat in the emotionally honest horror series that is always worth the wait.