Review: Afterlife with Archie #10

Afterlife10CoverDespite its erratic release schedule, Afterlife with Archie #10 continues to be one of the best comics currently being released as it combine the time honored Archie mythos with various horror sub-genres. And for this standalone story featuring Josie and the Pussycats, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla join forces to tell a tragic, yet lively vampire story featuring pop music.

Francavilla really shows off his versatility as an artist in Afterlife with Archie #10 as he believably conveys the history of the United States over the past 100 years through the lens of an all female singing group/rock band/whatever was “in” that decade. And he and Aguirre-Sacasa shift gears every few pages as the story begins as Annie or a Charles Dickens novel then switches to The Great Gatsby and Helter Skelter and in a final flourish, Interview with a Vampire. Aguirre-Sacasa does base the plot structure off that Anne Rice novel, but substitutes the Brad Pitt angst for fantastic outfits, guilt, and social commentary.

Afterlife with Archie #10 uses the interview format to provided a brutally honest character study of Josie, the frontwoman of Josie and the Pussycats while also being a meditation on the power and toxicity of fame. If you could be young, beautiful, and talented forever, would you and how much of your soul would you sacrifice? The scene where the mysterious Jay Gatsby stand-in is pretty horrific with a full page spread of red, black, and Josie’s eyes calling out in pain. Even more chilling is her heightened senses as a vampire, which Francavilla shows in a nine panel grid with colors that make it look like an old photograph. However, she doesn’t want to the Lana Del Rey song “Young and Beautiful” (which was on the soundtrack of the Baz Luhrman Great Gatsby film) and takes a shot at being one of the undead while giving her sisters that same painful gift.

Instead of trapping it beneath the glamor of the flappers and the freedom of 1960s counterculture, Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla confront racism in the United States head on in Afterlife with Archie #10. Early, in the comic, the Afterlife10InteriorCabot Sisters (an early incarnation of Josie and the Pussycats) are doing their first U.S. tour after being basically liberated from an orphanage when the head of the orphanage’s boyfriend wants to make money off their singing. There’s lots of fun and toe tapping that will amuse fans of Newsies and the Little Orphan Annie comic strips with a slight child star exploitation vibe going on in the background. But Aguirre-Sacasa doesn’t set the comic in an idealized fantasy world. After a performance in the South, a person throws a brick with a racist epithet through their hotel window directed towards Valerie, and they end up getting run out of town. But Aguirre-Sacasa gives them a full fledged dose of catharsis when after they become vampires, Josie and the gang devour KKK members in a panel that is classic Universal horror with the sisters flying against the moon and violently attacking the white supremacists. Even if they are vampires, Josie and the Pussycats have a heart for justice and doing the right thing as they are on their way to play a benefit concert for Riverdale when they get news about the events of Afterlife with Archie.

Even if you haven’t read Afterlife with Archie, this issue is worth picking up as a commentary on female-driven pop music in the 20th and early 21st century through the lens of the vampire genre as Josie and the Pussycats use their transformation to seize power over their own lives and not be exploited by men, like Uncle Buddy, who skimmed off their profits, and married their former band member Pepper. And Francesco Francavilla shows why he is the maestro of comics art with his ability to capture a range of emotions and situations from four girls rocking out at a concert to shots of wholesale slaughter and close-ups of beautiful and dangerous vampire eyes that Bela Lugosi would be proud of.

Also, if Sleater-Kinney ever did a cover of “Sympathy for the Devil”, it would pair well with Afterlife with Archie #10.

Story: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Art: Francesco Francavilla
Story: 9 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review