There are a lot of reasons to love what Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla are doing on Afterlife With Archie. There's the genuinely scary, atmospheric horror, the compelling character work that plays off the idea of horror movie archetypes, and the dark comedy that's inherent in taking America's favorite squeaky-clean teens and dropping them into an exceptionally violent and disturbing apocalypse. As for me, though, I'm mainly just in it for the deep-cut references to Archie's past.

The latest issue delivered on all four fronts, as the gang departs Riverdale in an effort to escape the massive zombie horde led by Jughead -- a phrase that is truly a delight to type -- but there's also something else about it: It has a strong late contender for the best line of dialogue of 2014.

The majority of this issue is built around one of those deep-cut references I mentioned above: Betty's Diary, a series that ran for four years in the late '80s, that provided a glimpse into the secret life of Archie's eternally lovesick neighbor. As you might expect from the fact that Betty herself is the more wholesome of Archie's love interests, Betty's diary wasn't exactly a treasure trove of scandalous inner thoughts, although I believe there was an issue where Betty was depicted as an octopus, and that's every bit as horrifying as anything Afterlife has served up.


Betty as an Octopus


That thing is downright Lovecraftian.

Here, though, the structure of the story takes the form of Betty attempting to recreate her diaries that were lost when the gang fled Riverdale so that she won't forget what life was like before her hungriest pal started preferring human flesh to hamburgers. It's a simple trick, but it allows the creative team to cram this issue full of backstory, showing the differences between the regular Archie universe and its horrific counterpart -- particularly when it comes to Betty and Veronica's relationship.

Their war over Archie takes a much crueler turn here, and while you'd think that wouldn't be the main draw of an issue that also features an attack by a horde of the undead, but the soap opera drama works beautifully.


Afterlife With Archie #7


Interestingly enough, Betty's diary also hints at a much more tragic early life for the Coopers, including a monumentally depressing portrait of Betty's sister, Polly. Her brother Chic, who is an actual real-life secret agent and therefore likely has skills that would make him pretty uniquely suited for surviving a zombie apocalypse, but I'm pretty sure that's just a temporary situation.

Of course, there's a much deeper cut that leads to a much more horrifying, ridiculous, and awesome scene at the end of the book, but the interaction between Betty and Veronica in this issue has one edge over the increasingly twisted tale of Cheryl and Jason Blossom: there is a piece of dialogue here that can only be described as purely delightful.

Honestly, if there's any justice in this world, this panel will be one of those "Reaction Images" that all you kids love so much until somewhere around the end of time:


Afterlife With Archie #7



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