Afterlife with Archie starts a new arc in issue #6 titled “Betty: R.I.P.”, and interestingly enough there’s not really any Betty to speak of. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa takes a break from the zombie adventures of “Escape from Riverdale” to focus on Sabrina after she was sent to the Nether-Realm for bringing Jughead’s dog Hot Dog back to life. For those wondering whatever happened to Sabrina, Afterlife with Archie #6 has got you covered – it’s an entire issue devoted to her, and also H.P. Lovecraft.
What’s striking about this deviation from the normal zombie formula is that Aguirre-Sacasa leaves everything in Riverdale hanging. There’s nary a mention of them except for a couple of references to Sabrina’s friends back home and a quick dream vision of zombified friends. That’s a risk that the series takes, especially when the first arc of the comics were so popular. But it’s a risk that has wonderful consequences, and in fact feels just as strong as the the first five issues of this series.
The issue starts off with a quote from H.P. Lovecraft: “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming…” If it wasn’t evident from the distorted, dream-like monsters of the cover artwork, the initial page certainly clues the reader in to the connections to Lovecraft and Cthulhu. And, as it should, Sabrina’s chapter begins with a dream – of her sitting on a beach, diving into the ocean with her boyfriend Harvey, and then getting pulled down by an ancient evil’s tentacles. It’s a conversation she’s having with her psychiatrist, Dr. Lovecraft himself, and he’s notating it all into a notebook as though he’s jotting down the story of Cthulhu right there.
Afterlife with Archie #6 is a reversal of Lovecraft’s story “Dreams in the Witch House”; this issue is subtitled “Witch in the Dream House,” and it introduces many of the characters from Lovecraft’s stories as actual people. Somehow Sabrina has been transported to this mental institution with Dr. Lovecraft at the helm, aided by Dr. Arthur Machen (real author of influential horror story “The Great God Pan”); in this place, Sabrina’s visions begin to distort and she sees Lovecraft and Machen transform into ancient Elder Gods.
While there she meets Erich Zann (“The Music of Erich Zann”), a violinist who recognizes that he can keep the ancient monsters away if he plays his violin at night. Sabrina finds Richard Pickman (“Pickman’s Model) as well, a young artist who paints all the portraits of the Elder Gods. Lovecraft is using all of the children to serve the Elder Gods, and they want to offer up Sabrina as Cthulhu’s wife.
Aguirre-Sacasa has obviously spent a lot of time in the writings of Lovecraft, and it shines through in this issue. Anyone with even a remote interest in the story of Cthulhu will find this issue of Afterlife with Archie to be a fine tribute to the fantastic and influential horror writer; but moreso, the use of Cthulhu and Elder Gods isn’t just a gimmick to sidestep having to return back to the zombie world. Instead, it feels like a natural progression, the consequence of bringing the dead back to life. And the idea that the Elder Gods are the things that hold the universe together is quite apparent in this issue.
Francesco Francavilla has changed up his color scheme a little bit to correspond with the new arc of the series. This time, he uses a lot of yellow backgrounds – whether intentional or not, they mimic Sabrina’s blonde hair, also adding an eerie hue to the character’s shadows. Oranges and reds are still incorporated, this time to highlight the change from human to monster. It’s all very distinctly Francavilla, and it’s a fantastic way to differentiate the two arcs so far.
Afterlife with Archie #6 proves yet again that if you’re not reading, you’re missing out on one of the best comics releasing right now. It’s great to see Aguirre-Sacasa expand the story outward into new horror territory, and if you’re a fan of Lovecraft’s stories, this is a wonderful homage to the man’s work. Included in this issue is a sneak peek at Aguirre-Sacasa’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina; once you get through the six pages, I can guarantee you’ll be adding it to your list of subscriptions this October.