Review: Afterlife with Archie

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Story by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artwork by Francesco Francavilla
Lettering by Jake Morelli

“All hell breaks loose when a fateful accident sets a series of events in motion that will threaten the town of Riverdale like never before! When the dead begin to rise, craving human flesh, it’s up to Archie, Betty & Veronica to fight for their lives against the zombie hordes led by their former pal, Jughead…”

“This is how the end of the world begins…”

The cover exclaims “All new chilling tales!” and this description couldn’t be more spot on. Aguirre-Sacasa throws us right into the action which, of course, begins ‘in the dead of night’. From the outset the narrative is powerful and engaging, we’re immediately set on a tumultuous path. A path paved with witchcraft, necromancy and ultimately, the undead. It had to be difficult for Aguirre-Sacasa to envisage a way to introduce this chilling tale, as the title of the book is a huge giveaway to the premise. Despite this, Afterlife with Archie #1 is compelling and exciting and manages to be unlike any zombie fiction I have seen or read before. It has all of the conventions to make it a zombie book but none of the flavourlessness that tends to accompany the genre. Aguirre-Sacasa injects life into an age old tale. The narrative has tremendous pace, it carries the reader from start to finish seamlessly. There are no dull or lackluster moments, only moments filled with tension and suspense.

Francavilla’s artwork was a deciding factor in my reading of this book. His style is ideal for a book called “Afterlife with Archie”. Both his regular cover and his awesome variant are creepy, dark and perfect for the kind of thing this book is going for. With Francavilla, I always think I can know what to expect, being such a huge fan of his work. However, as with every other book bearing his name, he manages to surprise and excite me. Francavilla was meant to draw horror. If you follow him on Twitter you’ll have probably seen his posters for various classic horror films, now imagine a comic book filled with that dark, perfect artwork and you get Afterlife with Archie. The colour palette used in this book is really something to marvel at. The oranges really give the book a spooky, Halloween feel. He uses so few colours, yet manages to appear to use the whole spectrum. You could describe his work as minimalistic but then you would be overlooking the fact that to make something look so beautiful and perfect, it takes a certain degree of genius and a whole lot of time.

As my first venture into the world of Archie Comics, I never felt like I was missing something. Both Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla have done a great deal to make this book accessible to those who don’t usually read Archie Comics and that in itself is a huge achievement. There’s a great balance of suspense and humour which will bring me back for the next issue. It has all of the makings of a great comic and hopefully it has the readership too.

10/10

 

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The Black Beetle in “No Way Out” #4

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Written & Directed by Francesco Francavilla

This is the fourth and final issue of the No Way Out mini-series from prolific creator Francesco Francavilla. In this issue we see the gripping climax of a thrilling mystery. We see more of The Black Beetle’s cunning and intelligence in this issue as we find out once and for all who is under the mazed mask of Labyrinto. Although I had already guessed who was under the mask, it was still exciting. The excitement came not from the reveal of the villain but from how The Black Beetle was going to stop him.

Francavilla has cemented himself as an excellent writer with this short series. It is often difficult for talented artists to be taken seriously as writers as well but that will be no problem for Francavilla. He knows how to create tension and excite his readers. I often wondered when reading The Black Beetle why Francavilla doesn’t have more writing gigs. His writing, like his art, is of the highest calibre I have seen in the industry. He writes noir like no other, he can be dark and sombre but light hearted all in the same story. His character, The Black Beetle, became one of my favourites very quickly. In just four issues Francavilla has laid out foundations for a character that could easily have a solo ongoing title at any publisher.

I can’t imagine that Francavilla ever considered letting someone else have art duties on this title. Why would he? This is his baby and only he truly knows how to tell his story. The artwork, as ever, in this issue is too great to describe. I’m no artist but I know good artwork when I see it. Francavilla’s work often leaves me gobsmacked and that was the case with this issue. There are two pages that are just comic book art in its most perfect form. If you’ve read the book then you’ll know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t think about The Black Mirror. In my review for Part 3 of 4, I mentioned the change in palette. In this issue Francavilla changes back to his oranges and yellows and still blows me away. His gritty, pulpy, noir style is one to be envied.

I look forward to the return of The Black Beetle later this year.

10/10

Cover of the Week 12/06/13

Here are my 5 favourite covers from the past week.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy #3 Variant by Leinil Yu (Marvel)

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4. The Black Beetle in “No Way Out” 4 of 4 by Francesco Francavilla (Dark Horse)

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3. Savage Wolverine #6 by Joe Madureira (Marvel)

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2. Superman Unchained #1 75th Anniversary Silver Age Variant by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (DC)

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1. Batman #21 Variant by Jock (DC)

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Cover of the Week 01/05/2013

5. Red She-Hulk #65, Francesco Francavilla (Marvel)

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4. Superior Spider-Man #9, Marcos Martin (Marvel)

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3. The Black Bat #1, Billy Tan (Dynamite)

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2. Ten Grand #1, Ben Templesmith (Image)

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1. Hawkeye #10, Francesco Francavilla (Marvel)

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Hawkeye #10

hawkeye10coverWriter: Matt Fraction
Artist: Francesco Francavilla

I’ve been wanting to get into Hawkeye for a while now after hearing nothing but great things. I’d been told that #10 would be a good jumping on point and after hearing that Francavilla would be doing the artwork for this issue (and #12) I didn’t need telling twice. This book is certainly deserving of all the praise it gets. I loved issues #1-5 which I read in the trade and thought I’d be able to wait for the next trade and so on. I’m the impatient kind though, I can’t just let one of my favourite artists do an issue of a critically acclaimed book and ignore it. There’s not much Clint Barton in this issue but there is a lot of Kate Bishop. This issue seemed more serious than previous issues I have read yet there were a couple of humorous instances.

Matt Fraction is an extremely talented writer, I honestly don’t think this book would have lasted had anyone else been writing it. He knows how to create tension, humour and empathy for the characters he writes. As someone who was never previously interested in Hawkeye, he’s made me a fan. This issue is focused more around Kate and she reveals a lot about her relationship with Clint, this is a nice piece of characterisation by Fraction. This issue doesn’t have a linear narrative which most writers would struggle to pull off without spelling things out to the reader. However, Fraction flits between the present and flashbacks seamlessly. Fraction’s work is a pleasure to read and I certainly will be keeping up with this series from now on.

Anyone who is even slightly familiar with my blog should be aware that I worship Francesco Francavilla. He has a style and he sticks with it because it works so wonderfully. I’ve talked about his colour palette in the past and that’s evident here. However, there is use of some bolder, different colours in this issue which he incorporates with his usual choices beautifully. I questioned what this book would be like with Francavilla’s work and I was wrong to do so. Like everything he does, it is of the highest quality. I’m excited that he worked on issue #12 as well because I really loved his work in this issue.

Fraction and Francavilla make an excellent team and I look forward to seeing how Hawkeye #12 turns out. This is definitely a great jumping on point for anyone looking to get into this series.

10/10

Follow me on Twitter @olivia217

Cover of the Week 24/04/13

I wanted to shake things up a bit on here so, from now on Fridays are ‘Cover of the Week’ day on this blog. I’ll choose five of my favourite covers each week, there may be one or two honourable mentions some weeks. Now these can be covers to comics I’ve not read, from all different publishers. I’m going to rank them in ascending order and I would love to know what your favourite cover was this week or if you think I overlooked anything.

So with out further adieu, the list:

5. Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #16 Cover E, Nick Roche (IDW)

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4. Talon #7, Guillem March (DC)

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3. Jupiter’s Legacy Cover B, Bryan Hitch (Image)

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2. The Shadow, Francesco Francavilla (Dynamite)

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1. Gambit #11, Clay Mann (Marvel)

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Let me know what you think and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @olivia217

The Black Beetle “Night Shift” Part 1 of 3

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Written & Directed by Francesco Francavilla

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “does this broad ever shut up about The Black Beetle?” “Francavilla this, Francavilla that”. You’re right to think that because ever since reading The Black Beetle “No Way Out” #1 I’ve been hooked. I’m an extremely impatient person, “Night Shift” will be collected in the Hard Cover release of “No Way Out” but I simply cannot wait, and since I can’t get my hands on The Black Beetle #0, I’m doing it the hard way. Issues #11, #12 and #13 of Dark Horse Presents hold parts 1,2 and 3 of “Night Shift” and #11, I believe is the first in print appearance of The Black Beetle (correct me if I’m wrong). Each part is only 8 pages long so the reviews will be short and sweet. My reason for doing separate reviews for each part is simple, I only have parts 1 and 2 so far and I like to be consistent.

Having already read the first 3 issues of The Black Beetle “No Way Out” I was already a little familiar with the story of “Night Shift”. As ever with Francavilla the artwork is impeccable, he really knows how to create mood with his work. One thing that attracts me to Francavilla’s work is his colour palette. At a first glance it can seem very limited, he uses a lot of oranges and yellows and a great deal of black. Looking through his work on The Black Beetle in particular, this is true but it also works brilliantly. I must note that in The Black Beetle #3 he uses a much larger palette, including soft pinks and blues, he integrates these colours wonderfully into the existing palette. Francavilla truly is a master at what he does and this can be seen in all of his work. Francavilla knows his readership, he knows what they want from a comic book, he gives them everything they want and more.

As with “No Way Out”, “Night Shift” is remarkably well written. In his writing, as with his artwork, Francavilla creates tension and mystery in a way I’ve never seen before. He manages to incorporate fun and excitement into his work. All of this can be seen in the the first 8 pages of “Night Shift”. This book encompasses the 1940s, it has Nazi bad guys and a badass detective. It’s gritty and cool, it’s everything a comic book should be. The 1940s is the perfect setting for this character, it allows Francavilla to play with genres like mystery, noir and pulp all of which he does perfectly. This marks the beginning of something incredible. The Black Beetle is here to stay.

Follow me on Twitter @olivia217