Open Mike Night: Afterlife With Archie #7/Uncanny X-Men #200

Afterlife with Archie #7
Written by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by:  Francisco Francavilla
Lettered by: Jack Morelli
Cover by:  Francisco Francavilla

Published by: Archie
Cover Price: $3.99

Maillaro: First thing I want to say is that I admire how much Archie Comics has been doing lately to try and change up their image some.  You can still get plenty of light-hearted, kids friendly stuff, like the Sonic books and Mega Man are great…plus plenty of classic style books with Archie and his friends.   But, they haven’t been afraid to try some new things.  Life with Archie has been a real mature look at how growing up will affect the Riverdale characters.  And next year, they are starting their Dark Circle line, which takes their classic Red Circle characters and gives them a darker edge.

And then you have Afterlife with Archie…and it’s even more disturbing sister book Sabrina…let’s take the familiar Archie characters, twist everything into a disturbing horror movie and see what happens.

Weaver: I’m not sure what I was expecting here, but it wasn’t quite this.  I know that Archie has the reputation of being the kiddie comic company, but even before they branched out to things like Afterlife With Archie, they did a lot of socially progressive things in their main line.  I remember them having homosexual characters that weren’t caricatures, as one for instance.

Anyway, it’s been decades since I’ve read a serious Archie comic, so I’m not as familiar with the cast as I feel like I should be.  I don’t remember Betty having a sister.  The twins seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place them either.  However, the story is set up to give you enough backstory to fill in the blanks on such things.  It makes me wonder if Betty’s sister being physically abused or whatever creepy thing was going on with the Blossom twins are things that happened in the main Archie universe.  Part of me thinks probably not, but as stated, they’ve been historically a lot more progressive than they’re given credit for.

Maillaro: As far as I know, the creepy relationship between the Blossoms and Betty’s sister’s mental problems are unique to this series, but I only read Archie comics in passing…like “Hey, KISS showed up for this arc, I should check it out.”   I do know that Betty does have an older brother and sister, but I couldn’t tell you much about either of them, to be honest.

Weaver: In some ways, I found this pretty typical zombie apocalypse fare…the idea that we have to hold to our societal traditions even in the face of an apocalypse, the mass burial, the reflections on what led us to where we are, the love triangle among survivors…which is the same love triangle that Archie has had since its earliest days.  But they successfully brought the Riverdale feel to it also.  It seems like two things that would never match up.  But I really feel it worked out here.

Maillaro: Yeah, I tend to agree.  It really is just a very well done zombie book.  It hits some real strong emotional moments in the series. In an earlier issue, we see Vegas sacrifice himself to save Archie…and I will admit, I teared up pretty bad when I read that issue.  It’s a truly beautiful moment, especially with the flashbacks of how Archie got Vegas in the first place.

In this issue, it was the creepy flashbacks to the Blossoms at an earlier Thanksgiving…and how it resulted in the murder of Cherry’s dog.  Yikes.   When we see her murder her brother Jason in the end of this issue, it makes sense…but it doesn’t make it any less disturbing.

Weaver:  Not going to lie, that Blossom Thanksgiving was horrific.  So much eugenics type talk and just…what a messed up family.  The spacing at the table seemed at first to exist in order to give us face shots of everyone, but after reading the dialogue, I’m not sure that was the case.  Creepy.  It seems to me that beyond the dogicide, there’s a lot of other bits of uncomfortableness from Cherry towards her brother.  I know some characters…like Veronica and Reggie…were always portrayed to be insensitive privileged jerkwads, but at some points here it went from jerkwad to total sociopath.

It’s a well done zombie book and a dark look at Riverdale.  I wasn’t expecting this, and I’m not sure I’d say I loved it, but mostly because it feels like I’m betraying my childhood.

Maillaro: I totally get that.  I often feel dirty after reading this book.  But I still like it a lot.  I have always loved horror stories, and it’s rare to get a true horror comic.  Even Walking Dead doesn’t quite feel like a true horror story to me a lot of the time, which is why I never really latched on to that series.

Francavilla’s art really adds to that.  He really created the perfect mood for the series, and I like that the characters are familiar looking, but still just different enough where you don’t feel like you are watching beloved childhood icons getting slaughtered.

The biggest problem with this series to me has been that Francavilla does a lot of work, so it means there are sometimes gaps between issues.  I don’t think Issue 9 has even been solicited yet as far as I can tell.  Even this issue was a Thanksgiving issue, that came out two weeks after Thanksgiving.

Weaver: The timing wasn’t a big deal to me.  I don’t mind a Thanksgiving story in December or a Christmas story in July.

I really liked the art, too.  You could recognize everyone, but it was still different enough.  I think it was a great idea to use Jughead as the main zombie, too, since he’s the most distinctive looking character and you can just cover that up with rot.  And the tin crown.

I think the art here does everything I want it to do and more.  I’d give that a 5, easily.  The story, I’m sort of conflicted on that.  It was well done.  But it did, as stated, make me a little uncomfortable.  However, for a horror comic, that’s a good thing.  Let’s call it a 4.

Maillaro: I am a huge fan of the genre, and this is a great representation of it, so I have to go 4.5 on the story.  But the 5 for the art definitely stands for me too.

Uncanny X-Men #200
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: John Romita, Jr and Dan Green
Colored by:  Glynis Oliver
Lettered by: Tom Orzechowski
Cover by: John Romita, Jr and Dan Green

Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $1.25 ($1.99 on Comixology)

Weaver: Ah, the 200th issue of Uncanny.  Unlike last time, I read the digital copy of this. Either I don’t own the original, which I find hard to believe, or I can’t find it.

A lot of plots culminate here.  It’s interesting to me to see how Magneto on trial works out in this time period.  I like how a bunch of police standing in a row is security measures beyond anything seen before.  At the time this was written, this depicted one of the most tense events we were able to imagine, but in a post-WTC attacks world, it looks pretty minor in comparison.  I think it holds up pretty well despite that, also, Neal Conan Neal Conan Neal Conan Neal Conan.  It feels like he gets mentioned every other page.

Maillaro: LOL!  Yeah, that name does come up a lot.  But on top of all the tense situations, I was dying when Kitty’s biggest concern was, “Oh my god, I might need glasses.”

I really think Claremont must have hated this character so much to make her look that shallow and useless pretty much every chance he got.  I fortunately never read a book with Shadowcat until much later, but if I had seen these appearances, I think I would truly hate and despise her as a character.

Weaver: Oh, you didn’t know?  Kitty was created by John Byrne in order to creepily come on to an unrequited love…alright, I’m exaggerating, he named the character Kitty Pryde because he really liked a classmate’s name.  Although her telling of the story ventures into slightly creepy territory, I’m going to give Byrne the benefit of the doubt on it.  Anyway, when Cockrum came back to the book he really hated the character and deliberately tried to sabotage her a lot…that’s why in 150 she had such terrible costuming.  Claremont’s known for mistreating characters he doesn’t like, for instance that’s why Iceman is the only original X-Man to not be delved into at all during Jean’s funeral.  So while Cockrum is gone by now, I think his hate lives on.

I think Kitty was one of those efforts to bring in a younger audience by having her supposedly relatable and enjoyable to people who were more concerned with needing glasses than whether a riot was about to erupt, and I think in this era, she succeeded as well as Jar Jar Binks did.  Relatable to the younger audiences, but annoying as hell to the older audiences.

Maillaro: I honestly don’t pay too much attention to the behind the scenes stuff like that in comics.  It just gets hard to separate what’s true from what’s fan mythology, so for the most part, I just try to enjoy the comics for what they are.

Sort of a random aside, but I do think a lot of that is what leads to a lot of comic fans to think they know more about the industry than a lot of the people actually who work in it.  I see the same problem with wrestling fans.  End rant.

Weaver:  Cockrum has admitted he tried to sabotage Kitty, and the “real Kitty Pryde” tried to sell some art Byrne gave her for an incredibly optimistic price a few decades ago, giving the story of how she ended up losing her name to the character.  She couldn’t produce art under her real name, so she used her initials.  However, that story was fraught with obvious factual errors, like going on about Wolverine’s affair with comic Kitty.  I’ll admit that I don’t know for a fact that Claremont had any particular issues with her himself.  Maybe it was just trying too hard to be relatable.

Maillaro: Did you catch that we got another Star Wars reference in this one?  I wonder if that was more common than I remember.   I know Sunspot and Cannonball made a lot of Star Wars references back in the day too…

Weaver: Star Wars references happened a lot in this era.  Remember, Marvel had the Star Wars license, and they loved to cross-pollinate comics, so they dropped what they could since you couldn’t really have direct ties.  It’s basically product placement.  It’s also the fact that Star Wars was so huge at this time that you couldn’t culturally escape it.

Maillaro: I just thought it was amusing that these two comics are four years apart, and we’re still on Star Wars.  I kind of forget how big it was back then…

Weaver: We got to see the slow volcano here, speaking of shout outs.  And Magneto successfully defending that he did it in a way that no one would be hurt, which is still hilarious 50 issues later.

Let’s talk about the biggest thing here, which is Xavier semi-dying again so that he could pass the torch to Magneto.  That was a huge turning point, or looked like it would be, but it didn’t last very long.  The status quo was much too powerful.

Maillaro: I actually am not sure I agree with that.  For the most part, Xavier is basically out of the X-Men’s lives for a long time after this.  I think Uncanny 281 is basically when it finally reverts back to the status quo.  BUT, this decision had a long lasting impact even outside of just Magneto leading the X-Men.

And soon after this X-Factor would launch, pretty much as a direct result of this decision as well.

Cable would end up heading the New Mutants, causing them the birth of X-Force…which is really the beginning of 90’s comics, including Image.  One of my favorite comics was when Cannonball finally gets a chance to tell off Xavier after X-Cutioner’s Song for dumping Magneto on them…which is kind of ironic, since it clearly wasn’t Charles’ choice…he was unconscious at the time.  He just never really made it back.

Weaver: X-Factor was already in the cards before this, and it really goes towards launching in the next issue, 201, with Cyclops being a baby about Storm kicking his ass with no powers.  This does start the freight train that became 90’s comics, though, I’d agree with that.  We put a guy with clear moral ambiguity in charge of the X-Men, kind of doubling down on the hated and feared thing.  I think that Magneto was more significant in New Mutants than X-Men, and I didn’t read that much at the time, so despite Xavier not being around, the X-Men definitely sidelined Magneto pretty fast.  It doesn’t really revert to the status quo, you’re right about that, but it does move away from Magneto.

I didn’t like the art at all in this issue.  Gaby Haller was almost unrecognizable, and did you catch the line about Magneto being medically 30 and yet right after that we see wrinkled face Magneto?  That kind of tossed me for a loop.  There were a lot of characters doing a lot of things, and very few of them really did much distinctive, at least art-wise.  There were opportunities in the script, but I feel like not much was made of them.  I liked this story.  I still like this story a long time after it came out.  But the art is doing it no favors.  Plus, giant M shirt Magneto always looked dumb to me.  I’m giving the art a 2.  Sorry, Romita Jr.  The story gets a 4.5 from me.  There were a few minor gripes with it, but it mostly delivered.

Maillaro: The art didn’t bother me all that much, but I didn’t find it all that memorable.  I have always hated giant purple M shirt Magneto, I will give you that.  And Haller had never had all that distinct a look for me, so I didn’t care too much.

One thing I did love were the X-Men heads on the cover.  That was always a great design feature to me, and I wish Marvel would go back to that.  Yeah, I am a dork that way.

I actually was more annoyed by how throw away the Fenris subplot was…especially since it distracted from so much of the issue.  X-Men comics are typically great at overexplaining things…but in this issue, we sort of get Strucker’s name thrown in there as an afterthought.   I don’t even think they ever explained that Strucker was a Nazi asshole.

Weaver: That’s a valid point.  I relied on outside information on Strucker to draw that conclusion, including the issue they refer to here.  Also, did you know this was sort of their first appearance?  They’d appeared as just Andrea and Andreas for a few issues, but this was when they became Fenris.  Beyond that, there’s a lot of disclarity on whether Fenris is the organization or the two in charge.

Maillaro: I sort of got the impression from this issue that it was their first appearance, but wasn’t sure.  Thanks for clearing that up

The X-Men being framed for all those crimes against humanity seems like it should have been a bigger deal too, and that sort of gets glanced over too.   Oh it was robots…or men in armor….being run by two mutant hating Nazis.

Weaver: We also never get a crowd reaction to the X-Men charging into that tourist boat guns blazing.  Obviously it was a set-up to make them look bad, but that gets so gladhanded that it’s not even funny.  Early in the issue, Scott even says that the Avengers would arrest them for those crimes if they contacted them, and they never have any firm evidence they didn’t do it, and yet…it’s all fine by the end of the issue because Magneto sort of saved the judge’s life/Jim Jaspers is a jerk.

Maillaro: Don’t get me wrong, I still thought this was a great main story, but it might have been better if they dialed back the action sequences some.  There were some great moral issues to be dealt with here, but they were sort of distracted by all the explosions.

So I will got a reluctant 3.5 on the story.  4.5 for the Magneto stuff…2.5 for the Fenrus stuff.   And the art is a 3.  It’s probably an unfair score for a comic I actually enjoyed, but it’s definitely how I have to grade it.

Weaver: Next week, I picked out Ostrander’s Suicide Squad #1, since I’ve never read it and always meant to, and it was shiny on Comixology.

Maillaro: And cheap at 99 cents, so bonus!   For my choice, I want to do the new issue of Ms Marvel.  I haven’t reviewed it in a long time.  Jersey City representing!!

This will probably be our last column of the year.  When we get back from Christmas and Yule break, Weaver suggested we should tackle Lady Thor, which is an awesome idea for me.  I’ve really enjoyed that book and not had a chance to talk about it much.

Weaver: I figured we did Falcon Cap, and we’re going to do Muslim Ms. Marvel, might as well hit the outrage trifecta.  I look forward to it.


Final Scores

Maillaro – Story Weaver – Story Maillaro – Art Weaver – Art
Afterlife with Archie #7 4.5 4 5 5
Uncanny X-Men #200 3.5 4.5 3 2

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