Welcome back to “5 for the Fandom”! In this weekly ComicsVerse series, we pick five comic runs that, because of their kindred characters, similar aesthetics, or shared themes, specifically appeal to your fandom. For this week, order a milkshake from Pop and get comfortable — but not too comfortable! We have comics for the teen murder mystery lover in you RIVERDALE fan!

As a lifelong Archie fan, I had reservations when I first heard the premise of RIVERDALE. On the one hand, Betty and Veronica were going to be on my TV screen (#teamberonica4life). Yet, on the other hand, Archie Andrews was ripped. Oggling Archie “sweater vest” Andrews’ six-pack made me want to report myself to the authorities. Also, sexy Ms. Grundy was not something I was emotionally prepared for. So when the first season premiered in January, I reluctantly perched myself on the sofa and waited. By the time Moose and Kevin found Jason’s dead body mid-makeout, I was on the edge of my seat. Eight months later, I still am.

RIVERDALE won me over with its cliffhangers, sleek visuals, dynamic character relationships, and compelling mystery. I came for the characters and stayed for the mystery (and Cheryl and Veronica’s sick burns). The wait for season 2 to premiere on October 11th has been hard. Luckily, I have found some great comics to tide me over and give me those RIVERDALE feels. If you need a RIVERDALE fix as sweet and addictive as Blossom maple syrup, then check out these comics!

READ: Missed last week’s “5 for the Fandom”? Fear not: click this link for our last installment on the mack daddy of computer games right now, DREAM DADDY!

1. BUCKO by Jeff Parker and Erika Moen

If you love RIVERDALE for its well-done murder mystery, then you’ll definitely want to check out BUCKO. In this webcomic, Rich “Bucko” Richardson is not having a good day. He got blackout drunk at a party the night before an important job interview. He is already on edge when he has to run mid-interview to the bathroom to relieve himself — only to find a dead body. Definitely not a good day for Bucko. Of course, he has to figure out who killed the bathroom body with the help of Gyp, the cute girl from the party, and a ragtag team of friends. Can Bucko solve the mystery and have a happy ending?

Image courtesy of Jeff Parker and Erika Moen/Dark Horse Comics.

Not only is BUCKO a solid murder mystery, but the story has fun characters, from Juggalos to Suicide Girls and steampunk Makers. This comic is also very funny, thanks to Parker’s writing and Moen’s cartoonish art style (similar to her webcomic series, OH JOY, SEX TOY). This comic is more than a little silly — which, let’s be real, RIVERDALE is as well. For all the RIVERDALE shippers, you’ll be rooting for Bucko and Gyp. Bucko’s desire to get with Gyp reminds me of a certain girl-crazy redhead. This comic is a page-turner that will please any and all RIVERDALE fans.

BUCKO was completed back in 2012. You can read the entire webcomic for free starting here. If you like what you read, please remember to support the creators by buying the comic, published by Dark Horse Comics. You can purchase the book here.

READ: Willing to kill for another great murder mystery comic? Put your butcher’s knife down and instead pick up CLUE #1, the comic based off of the board game!

2. PLUTONA by Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox

Maybe you like your murders to have a bit more grit? No problem! In Image Comics’ PLUTONA, a group of friends finds a dead body. However, this isn’t just any dead body — the corpse they find is that of the world’s greatest superhero, Plutona! These kids have to not only figure out what to do with the body but also come to grips with the hard lesson that superheroes do not always win. Nothing is safe anymore in the world of PLUTONA. How the characters process this fact and how it will impact their lives and relationships is the narrative thrust of this comic.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Both RIVERDALE and PLUTONIA are about the loss of innocence. The way our group of five kid heroes copes with the discovery is very RIVERDALE. Our heroes are never going to be the same, much like how our group can never return to innocence. Lemire and Lenox know how to write engaging characters and give us a slow burn. Lenox’s character designs are individual to each character and expressive, much like how Cheryl’s signature color is red, Betty wears ponytails, and Jughead’s hat are their signatures. For those who wished to know more about Jason from Jason’s perspective, PLUTONA allows the titular heroine her own thoughts and scenes, fleshing her character out. If you are smart enough not to be fooled out of seeing comic characters in a TWIN PEAKS soap opera, then you need to give PLUTONA a read!

PLUTONA completed its story last year. As such, you can purchase the trade paperback, containing all five issues, here. Or, for you hardcore hardcover bibliophiles out there, a collector’s edition of PLUTONA (containing both the story and extra goodies) is available here.

READ: Not yet sold on this awesome comic? Then check out our review of PLUTONA #1!

3. SKIM by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

RIVERDALE is not just a mystery show, though. Jason’s death forces the teenage characters to confront who they are and who they want to be. Their dynamic, changing relationships with one another and their individual selves is an important part of RIVERDALE and also the comic SKIM. In the Tamaki cousins’ graphic novel before THIS ONE SUMMER, our protagonist is Kimberly Keiko Cameron. She is nicknamed “Skim” by her schoolmates at her all-girls’ high school because of her not-slim physique. Mean girls aren’t Skim’s only problem, though: she and her best friend, Lisa, are drifting apart, she enters into a forbidden relationship with Ms. Archer, her English teacher, and her parents are non-supportive and non-existent. Skim’s world is fracturing just as the school is dealing with the aftermath of popular girl Katie’s boyfriend’s suicide. Skim is entering adulthood, with all its confusion and heartbreaks.

Image courtesy of Groundwood Books/ House of Anansi Press.

SKIM contains a lot of the same story elements as RIVERDALE: a teacher & student relationship, the death of a beloved teen jock, tested friendships, and bullying (no joke, Katie’s friends will make you appreciate Cheryl’s upfront meanness). On top of this, SKIM contains a moody atmosphere. Jillian Tamaki’s penwork is atmospheric and haunting while Mariko gives us a brooding, engaging narrator in Skim. Skim’s diary-written narration is just as beautiful as our beloved self-proclaimed weirdo Jughead’s. Just like with Jughead, you will find yourself invested in Skim’s story and rooting for her to find happiness. SKIM is, just like Archie comics, a classic and a must-read.

SKIM is available for purchase here.

READ: Check out our analysis of SKIM and the failings of anti-bullying/suicide prevention campaigns here!

4. ROYAL CITY by Jeff Lemire

It wasn’t just the teens’ relationships with one another that makes RIVERDALE what it is. Watching Veronica and Jughead trying to cope with their fathers’ actions was heartbreaking. Meanwhile, seeing Archie and Betty connect with their moms made me love mine all the more. Plus how awesome are Hermione and Fred as parents (and a couple), and all that Blossom and Polly drama, oh my God! Suffice it to say, there is a lot of family drama in RIVERDALE. Familial drama is also at the center of Image Comics’ ROYAL CITY. This comic follows the Pike family. Patrick Pike returns home to his warring adult siblings, overbearing mother, and defeated father. The family must cope with one another and the memory of Tommy, the youngest brother who drowned decades ago. ROYAL CITY is a thoughtful meditation on modern suburban living and family in contemporary America.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

If the familial strife within the Cooper and Blossom households appeal to you, then Lemire has you covered. You see and feel Patrick’s struggle to cope with his familial pain. With a small town setting just like Riverdale, seeing these flawed, broken characters cope with the death of Tommy is moving. Add to this a visual style as distinctive as RIVERDALE’s and ROYAL CITY is an all-around winner.

ROYAL CITY is ongoing. Currently, five issues are out; you can purchase the latest issue here. ROYAL CITY vol. 1: NEXT OF KIN contains the first five issues and will be released September 27th. You can buy the volume here. To subscribe and make sure you get issue 6 when it is released October 11th, click here.

READ: Check out another writer’s glowing review of ROYAL CITY #1 here!

5. SPENCER & LOCKE by David Pepose and Jorge Santiago, Jr.

One of the reasons RIVERDALE is so fascinating is because it takes a comic beloved by children and mixes in adult, gritty themes to winning effect. Action Lab Comics’ SPENCER & LOCKE does the same thing to match this same winning effect. However, this comic mixes Bill Watterson’s CALVIN & HOBBES comic strip with film noir. Detective Locke (our chainsmoking adult Calvin analog) finds the corpse of his grade-school sweetheart in an alleyway. In order to solve the case, he’ll need help. That help comes in the form of Spencer, Locke’s childhood imaginary panther. This one murder leads the duo on a spiraling journey down into the heart of the local crime syndicate and into Locke’s traumatic past. Spencer and Locke are determined to find the truth — if they can live long enough to find it.

Image courtesy of Action Lab Comics.

Gritty, dark reimagining of childhood characters is fun when done well, and SPENCER & LOCKE does this very well. RIVERDALE and SPENCER & LOCKE allow fans of the original property to see narrative potentials and appreciate the nuances of beloved characters. On top of that, writer Pepose and artist Santiago Jr. bring a psychological complexity to Locke. This complexity is also seen in the reimaging of Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica. SPENCER & LOCKE is a suspenseful, fun ride of a comic worthy of your time.

SPENCER & LOCKE is an ongoing series. You can purchase digital copies of the first four issues or the first volume here and physical copies here.

READ: A CALVIN AND HOBBES fan? You’re not alone. Read about our admiration of the legendary artist here!

Honorable Mention: AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla

If you want an Archie comic that is most like RIVERDALE, then AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE is the comic for you. True, Archie Comics has an ongoing RIVERDALE comic series. However, few comics can compare to the gothic high drama that is AFTERLIFE. Jughead’s beloved dog, Hot Dog, is run over by a hit-and-run driver and is dying. In a desperate attempt to save his beloved pooch, Jughead begs Sabrina (of “The Teenage Witch” fame) to bring him back to life no matter the cost. She does so — and all of Riverdale pays the price. Hot Dog’s resurrection unleashes the zombie apocalypse onto Riverdale. No one is safe from the monsters — both undead and living — in this (rightfully rated) teen horror comic.

Image courtesy of Archie Comics.

WATCH: Andrew Rivera shares his thoughts on the handling of Polly’s abortion in this episode of Intellectual Property!

Writer and Archie Comics CCO Aguirre-Sacasa is RIVERDALE’s developer, an executive producer, and writer. As such, AFTERLIFE is pre-RIVERDALE. It foreshadows many of the story elements, characterizations, and character relationships of the show, just with a larger cast of characters and, you know, zombies. Yet, AFTERLIFE has even more unexpected turns and “omg” moments than the show. You will not see where this story takes you, yet you will love it all the same. Francavilla’s gorgeous, graphic artwork compliments the writing. Archie hasn’t been this heroic since the season one finale. Easily one of the best comics to ever come from Archie Comics, you will not regret reading AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE.

AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE is currently on its tenth issue. The first five comics are collected in AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE vol. 1: ESCAPE FROM RIVERDALE. You can purchase individual issues or the collected volume as either digital or as physical copies.

Are you ready for the return of RIVERDALE? Hopefully, our suggestions have helped you cope while we wait for the release of season 2! Leave a comment and let us know what you’ve decided to read!

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