Publisher: Archie Comics (Archie Horror Imprint)
Writer: Frank Tieri
Art: Michael Walsh, Pat & Tim Kennedy, Joe Eisma
Inks: Bob Smith, Jim Amash
Colours: Michael Walsh, Dee Cunniffe, Matt Herms
Release Date: July 18th 2018
So here’s the basic gist of this one: it transpires that loveable, burger-munching Jughead Jones is actually descended from a long line of lycanthropes, a discovery he makes amidst a spate of brutal murders in and around Riverdale. To complicate matters, everyone’s favourite girl-next-door Betty Cooper also has a secret of her own – her family has made a living throughout history as Werewolf hunters! We can all see where this is going, right?
This collected edition brings together the first three issues of the Elseworld-esque Archie Horror series, as well as the one-shot prologue issue. As with the “Afterlife With Archie” series, writer Frank Tieri adopts a more mature, violent and horror-themed approach for the usually wholesome and innocent Archie Comics characters here, and this mini arc sees Jughead running off to join the circus after the apparent death of Reggie Mantle, with Betty and a somewhat reluctant Archie hot on his heels.
Tieri delivers a solid, albeit slightly rushed story. There are a lot of moving parts involved here, including other werewolves and some colourful members of Betty’s extended family, and while they’re all introduced fairly well, there simply isn’t enough space to let all the different storyline elements breathe. There are still some great moments along the way though. For instance, his version of Betty is absolutely fantastic, and Archie provides an amusing wet blanket of a counterpoint to her in-your-face ass-kickery.
Michael Walsh provides the artwork for the prologue issue, and without wanting to slight either Joe Eisma or Pat and Tim Kennedy, each of whom are extremely talented in their own ways, his style does feel like a much better fit for the tone of the story. His bold, stylised approach works wonders in establishing an unsettling mood and delivering the shocking horror moments (poor Miss Grundy), with things softening slightly in the subsequent issues and losing a little of their impact in the process.
Thankfully, in spite of having no less than three colourists throughout the course of these four issues, the same striking and stripped-down palette is used throughout, helping to minimise the transition between artists (although the mid-issue switches from the Kennedys to Eisma still feels particularly jarring). Everything is muted with reds and pale blues, giving the series a Francavillian aesthetic that really works to underscore the fact that this isn’t your Grandmother’s Riverdale any more.
The final pages make it clear that this is only the very beginning of what promises to be a massive story, which is both reassuring and a little frustrating given the lack of any sort of resolution (or even a satisfying temporary conclusion) in this volume.
At the end of the day though, while there’s definitely a bit of a dip in quality from the stellar prologue issue, it’s great to see Archie Comics continuing to expand the scope of their horror imprint. And, while there are some great gory moments to be had here, a few niggling issues are still preventing this from reaching the same lofty heights as Afterlife With Archie. Definitely one to keep an eye on though.