If you’ve perused the shelves at your local comic book store recently, you may have noticed something’s awry in Riverdale. What was once the home of Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe and Sweetwater River is now full of zombies, werewolves, and vampires. Archie Comics has been low-key fascinating for the last decade, but in 2013, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (the creator of Riverdale) experimented with the launch of Afterlife with Archie, a short horror series about the zombie apocalypse that captured the imaginations of readers and pumped new life into Archie and friends even as they were turned into the undead. The series was so successful that, in 2015, the Archie Horror brand was launched and new titles have come out every month.
So far, Riverdale has seen a zombie infestation, Jughead has become a werewolf and a zombie, Veronica has turned into a vampire, and Pops has perished upwards of three times. If you don’t keep up with the Riverdale crew from month to month, the whole thing can get a little confusing. If you’re wondering why there’s a zombie Jughead, or why Betty’s a werewolf hunter, this primer on the Horror Archie universe will clear things up.
It All Starts When Jughead Asks Sabrina To Bring Hot Dog Back To Life
The zombie apocalypse in Riverdale has more in common with EC Comics and H.P. Lovecraft than Night of the Living Dead. Rather than relying on a comet or government toxins to coax the undead from their graves, Afterlife with Archie makes use of Greendale's resident witch to jumpstart the horror.
After Reggie hits Jughead's beloved pooch Hot Dog with his car, Jug takes him to Sabrina so she can work her magic. Sabrina means well, but she uses the Necronomicon to bring Hot Dog back to life, and this awakens something unholy in him. He comes back all wrong, and after he bites Jughead, the downfall of society is underway. By using Sabrina and the Necronomicon, the series is letting the audience know that pretty much anything can happen.
The use of magic early in the series hints at the later inclusion of ghosts, Cthulhu, werewolves, and the interdimensional travel the writers eventually weave into the comics.
Jughead Becomes The First Zombie And Wreaks Havoc On The Halloween Dance
Issue #1 of Afterlife with Archie sets the tone and style of the series. Francesco Francavilla's shadowy, gothic-inflected art is genuinely horrifying. But the second issue is really where the series earns its Teen Plus rating. After Jughead becomes Riverdale's first zombie, he shows up at the high school's Halloween dance and chomps on Ethel.
From there, the zombies spread their disease in a collection of gory frames that show just how intense this series can get. However, the story is told artfully, from the perspective of Veronica explaining it to her father later in the evening. To escape the dance, Archie rounds up every survivor and locks Jughead and the rest of the zombies in the school gym. The scene gives readers a look at some classic zombie visuals while simultaneously showing that, no matter what kind of story Archie finds himself in, he'll always be a hero.
The Survivors Hole Up In Lodge Manor Before Hitting The Road
Regardless of whether you're watching Riverdale or reading Life with Archie, Hiram Lodge hates Archie. So it shouldn't be a surprise that when Archie leads a group of survivors to Lodge Mansion during Afterlife with Archie's zombie outbreak, Hiram isn't happy about it.
Things are going great for the survivors at Lodge Manor - they're hanging out in Veronica's indoor pool, Betty is reading first editions from the Lodge library - it's just that Midge is infected after getting scratched by a zombie and she hasn't told anyone about it. Aside from two zombies, everything should be fine and dandy on the Lodge estate, but after Archie sneaks out to check on the rest of the town, he comes to the conclusion that it's only a matter of time before the undead smash their way into the fortified mansion.
Rather than sticking around and finding out how long they can last, the crew hits the road to find a more suitable place to live. It's not a great plan, but it is a plan, so everyone follows Archie's lead and they all walk into uncertainty together.
Sabrina Gets Banished To The Nether-Realm And Offered As A Sacrifice
Sabrina was just trying to help when she brought Hot Dog back to life. Unfortunately, no good deed goes unpunished, and for using the arcane arts to accidentally bring about the end of the world, Sabrina is banished to the netherworld by her aunts in the first issue. Readers don't get another glimpse at Sabrina until issue #6, "Witch in the Dream House," which follows Sabrina along her dark path to becoming a sacrifice to the old gods.
If the first five issues didn't make it obvious that things were going to get weird in Riverdale, this is the issue where the Afterlife with Archie storytellers lay their cards on the table. They reveal that there are alternate universes and worlds between dimensions where creatures older than time exist. Sabrina is married to Cthulhu in a pagan ritual after she realizes she was born to bring about the end of humanity. It's really dark.
After she's wed to Cthulhu, Sabrina disappears for a few more issues before reappearing as a kind of Cthulhu-demon hybrid thing that convinces Reggie to slay Betty for a reason that's unknown as of this writing.