Publisher: Archie Comics
Release Date: 14th August 2019
For their latest hardcover art book release, Archie Comics have wisely chosen to shine a light on the work of supremely talented Italian artist Francesco Francavilla, whose efforts over the last decade have played a pivotal role in the resurgence and rejuvenation of the iconic publisher.
Featuring artwork from The Black Hood, the Riverdale TV series tie-in and several of Archie’s famous crossovers with the likes of KISS (to name but a few), this collection not only showcases the finished product but provides some added insight into Francavilla’s process, breaking down the life cycle of his art, from rough pencils to fully inked and coloured pages and covers.
Perhaps Francavilla’s most successful stint with Archie Comics was alongside Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa on 2013’s Afterlife With Archie, which transplanted the iconic characters into a situation akin to The Walking Dead with zombies running wild through Riverdale. And while Aguirre-Sacasa did a great job of steering the story into previously uncharted waters, Francavilla did a lot of the heavy lifting with his typically striking, shadow-heavy visual style.
This collection features both interior pages and covers from the series, and while I’d have loved to have a little more explanation of the process or additional background information (as I’ve seen in other similar art books in the past), Francavilla’s artwork is more than strong enough to carry things on its own.
That said, while his covers are undeniably eye-catching, I’m personally more of a fan of Francavilla’s interior work, and the way he conveys mood and narrative flow with his well-paced layouts is perhaps his greatest strength as an artist. Everything is heavily shadowed with a creative use of negative space, and the way he continually draws the reader’s eye to certain panels or beats is visual storytelling at its absolute finest.
My one minor niggle with the collection is with the positioning of the artwork itself. While the smaller, multiple-images-to-a-page layouts are fine, the full-page artwork is actually anything but, with a superfluous border reducing the size of the main image for no apparent reason. It’s particularly frustrating given the oversized hardcover nature of the release, and while the high resolution images are great to look at, their unnecessarily diminished size feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
With that said, this is still definitely a highly recommended purchase for fans of Archie Comics, fans of Francavilla in particular, or fans of great artwork in general.
[PREVIEW – CLICK TO ENLARGE]