Column: Comics Over Innsmouth: Undead Doesn’t Have to Mean Unread

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Aguirre-Sacasa, Roberto, author; Francavilla, Francesco, illustrator. Afterlife with Archie. Archie Comics, 2013.

Mignola, Mike, author; Moon, Fabio and Ba, Gabriel, artists. BPRD: Vampire. Dark Horse, 2013.

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I’m tired of zombies. Zombies are to pop culture what cream and butter was to Julia Child: Huge quantities are put in everything, whether or not they seem like they’d belong there.

When I heard about Archie Comics having a storyline involving zombies, I was pretty certain it was going to be awful. Archie‘s had a long history of weird mash-ups, from Scooby-Doo to The Punisher, and none of them has ever been anywhere close to good. I suppose this isn’t surprising because Archie itself isn’t exactly good. It isn’t terrible, either – it just is. It’s like mayonnaise: Almost everyone has at least a little bit in their house, even if it’s old and forgotten in the corner of your shelf, but no one is ever excited about it. You don’t say, “I’m going to go home and make a really great mayonnaise casserole,” in the same way you don’t say, “I’m going to go home and read some really fabulous Archie comics!”

Well. Maybe you do. Afterlife with Archie somehow manages to be great. The art work is dark without being overwrought, focusing on bold, bright colors that add to the 80s horror movie feel. Beginning with Sabrina reanimating Jughead’s dog – obviously, she’d never read Pet Semetary – it follows the familiar pattern of B-movie teenage horror without ever being cliche. Incredibly clever, it is at once an homage to and a satire of Archie and movies like Friday the 13th.

Basically, if you grew up watching Nightmare on Elm Street and reading Archie, this is exactly your comic.

Vampires as a genre are still trying to recover from the damage done to them by Twilight. I’m notbprdvampire-w622-h350 sure exactly how vampires transitioned from Bram Stoker’s lurking horror that ruins society by corrupting its women into Meyers’ (and pretty much everyone else who is writing vampires now) best boyfriend ever (as long as you’re willing to overlook the glaringly obvious fact that he is creepy as all hell).

Thankfully, Mike Mignola, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba have created BPRD: Vampire to remind us that there’s another option for vampires aside from vapid, teen-hearthrob-y Justin Bieber clones.

Following Simon Anders, a BPRD agent haunted by a past encounter with a vampire, who is now on a mission to singlehandedly exterminate their entire clan, BPRD: Vampire creates monsters who are pure evil. Remember mesmerism? How Dracula could control people from far away in insidious ways? Mignola, Moon and Ba do – and what’s more, they know how to write it effectively.

The vampires in this story are more Lovecraftian than anything else: Incredibly ancient and intelligent, their thoughts and desires are completely alien to us. Any kind of humanity they may have is merely a construct that we have bestowed upon them in a futile attempt to understand their motivations.

It is a beautiful story: the art and dialogue work seamlessly together to create a disquieting story that simmers quietly in the dark recesses of your mind long after you’ve put it down. In this age of “vegetarian” vampires, it’s nice to know that some people, at least, remember the old ways.

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