By Lyndsey Holder
Afterlife with Archie #6. Written by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Illustrated by: Francesco Francavilla, Jack Morelli, Robert Hack, and Rachel Deering. Archie Comics, 2014.
Generally, I’m sort of a hit-it-and-quit-it kind of lady with my reviews. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t lack the ability to settle down with a series, but as much as I’d love to sit around all day in my underpants eating chocolates in bed with BPRD: Hell on Earth (and believe me, if there is a Heaven, it is going to have endless bookcases filled with an infinite amount of comics from the Hellboy universe and a butler to serve me chocolates while I read them in a bathtub that never gets cold), I have a feeling that a constant stream of Hellboy gushing would get quite tedious rather quickly.
That said, Afterlife With Archie #6 tentacle-slapped me in the face and I realized that despite my fears of its becoming boring, I couldn’t in good faith write a column about comics for a publisher called Innsmouth Free Press and not write a review on it, as this comic is trying so, so very hard to appeal to Lovecraft fans. It would be more accurately titled Archie in Lovecraftland.
Sabrina has been banished to the Nether-Realm. At least, she thinks she has. She’s in an asylum, where she is assured by her psychiatrist, Dr. Lovecraft, that her memories of Riverdale and banishment are simply fictions created by her addled mind to protect her from reality. At the asylum, Sabrina hangs out with two patients that anyone who has a passing familiarity with Lovecraft’s work will recognize.
I’m really of two minds about this. On the one hand, Lovecraft is becoming enough of a thing that Archie is doing a take on him and that’s pretty cool. The story is decent and a closer approximation to a proper Lovecraftian tale in and of itself than I ever thought I’d see from anything Archie, and better than most mainstream Lovecraftian stories I’ve read.
That said, Dr. Lovecraft? Really? Really, really? And … he’s so out of character. I get that he was the creator of the Mythos and thus, I suppose, as the orchestrator of all of the elder gods and things, he’s an obvious antagonist, if you don’t actually know anything about the man. Dude waxed poetic about cheap baked beans and crappy chocolate, and would sit still in a chair for hours if getting up meant moving a cat off his lap. He was a man who was incredibly uncomfortable with both the world at large and what he felt was his expected place in it. If he’s going to be an antagonist, he needs to be a nervous and tortured one, not a scenery-chewing bastion of evil.
It’s frustrating, because this comic does a bunch of subtle things and then, while you’re leaning over to get a closer look at the very clever tiny details, it sneaks up behind you and smacks you with a two-by-four. You had a quote from “The Call of Cthulhu” on the first page of the freaking comic, guys. We get it. This is Lovecraftian stuff. Beating your readers over the head with references is only going to frustrate those of us who know what you’re talking about and do absolutely nothing for the uninitiated.
People who have read “Pickman’s Model” are going to know who that dude that does a lot of paintings of weird monsters is, but people who haven’t read it aren’t, even if you introduce him as “Richie – Richard, actually. Pickman.” And let’s not even get into how Cthulhu in this story is pretty much King Kong with tentacles.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t read it, though. Even though it’s more Lovecraftian, both in essence and in detail, than most other mainstream Lovecraftian tales, that’s not saying a whole lot, because “Lovecraftian” in mainstream media means HEY, GUYS, IT’S CTHULHU and not much else. Really, it’s about as faithful to Lovecraft as action movies are to physics, but it’s still fun in the way that action movies are – you just have to be careful not to think too hard.