Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla take a step away from the end of the world and instead step back in time in “Afterlife with Archie” #10, exploring another corner of the Archie Universe by introducing Josie & the Pussycats into the world of the unfolding zombie apocalypse that originated in Riverdale. The pair deliver a surprising and even disturbing origin for the musical trio that plays right into the horror vibe of the series, by reinventing the group as none other than century-old vampires, who have remained ageless and in turn reinvented their musical personas every generation or so.
The issue kicks off with the proverbial interview with a vampire, namely Josie, which Aguirre-Sacasa uses to frame her history, as well as that of her bandmates.
Josie — that is, Josephine McCoy — reveals to the interviewer that she was orphaned shortly after her birth way back in 1906, and left in the care of an orphanage run by Alexandra Cabot. Alexandra has long been the foil to Josie and her group, and is reimagined here as a cold and cruel headmistress who already has three other girls in her care: Melody, Valerie, and Pepper. The four girls find that singing throughout the day helps them get through the drudgery of their daily chores, and one of Alexandra’s opportunistic companions discovers their natural talent and forges them into a performing act. “Uncle Buddy” then takes the quartet on the road, exploiting their talent but nonetheless freeing them from Alexandra’s oppression.
Longtime Josie fans will remember that Pepper was written out of the franchise decades ago, with little explanation. Here, Aguirre-Sacasa comes up with a plausible if creepy reason for her departure: Buddy demands that the two of them marry. Although it’s never mentioned outright, it’s strongly implied that Pepper is pregnant by Buddy, and with Pepper’s removal from the group, the act is now a trio.
Shortly thereafter, the group is introduced to the suave but mysterious Henry Irving, a socialite whose pale complexion and glowing crimson eyes strongly hint that he’s more than just a wealthy partygoer. Irving’s persuasive powers are the first indication that he is indeed a vampire, and before the night is done, he uses those powers to seduce Josie, in turn converting her into a vampire before disappearing.
In short order, Josie subsequently turns Melody and Valerie into creatures of the night as well. From there, the trio embark on a series of makeovers in the coming decades. Throughout the 20th Century, the group establishes themselves as a short-lived singing act, only to disappear, be forgotten, and reemerge years later as a totally new group, in tune with the latest musical trends of the day. The latest and current incarnation of the band, of course, is Josie & the Pussycats.
Along the way, the trio use their powers for more than just looking young; they also interact with real-life history. The trio feasts on a southern KKK group with whom the Josie and company had a previous threatening encounter, and they’re seen to be taking a direct hand fighting against the Nazis in World War II. They also witness firsthand the aftermath of the Charles Manson murders; in fact it’s revealed that the murders were actually committed by Irving, who framed Manson to take the fall.
Come the ’80s, an elderly Pepper, having learned Josie’s secret to eternal youth, returns to confront her. Pepper at first asks to be made immortal like her, and then attempts to blackmail her when Josie refuses. Josie then feels compelled to kill her former friend.
Josie then reveals to the interviewer that she scheduled the interview solely out of narcissism, and leads him to Melody and Valerie where the trio kill him and feed on him off-panel. As the trio later make their way to Riverdale, they learn of the of the disturbances there and, curious about the exact nature of the unrest, decide to investigate rather than detour, as the issue draws to a close. The caption in the final panel, “The Wedding Crashers,” teases the idea of some conflict at the wedding of Archie and Betty next issue.
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