Archie vs. Predator #1 (of 4)
Script: Alex de Campi
Pencils: Fernando Ruiz
Inks: Rich Koslowski
Colours: Jason Millet
To date, the various cross-media ventures of Archie Comics have fallen squarely into the category of ‘silly fun’ (think of the infamous Punisher crossover or the more recent bit of lunacy that was Archie Meets KISS). These stories were certainly different, but always still firmly rooted in the world and the rules of Archie, with the ‘outsiders’ (be they gun-toting vigilantes or the kids of Glee) being toned down just as much as they had to be to fit in and not upend the status quo any more than any other event story might.
With Archie vs. Predator, that paradigm has finally shifted. Afterlife with Archie paved the way toward seeing Riverdale’s beloved teens in genuinely shocking situations, but that title has done an excellent job specifically by positioning itself as based on the classic comics, not precisely of them. AVP makes no such efforts, and is all the more horrifying and delightful for it.
I thought I was prepared to see a traditional Archie comic put through the ringer of a violent crossover amidst the company’s current ‘anything goes’ atmosphere. It’s the sort of thing I’ve fantasized about for years (ask me about the elaborate Archie/The Ruins crossover that lives in my head [please don’t]).
I was wrong. I wasn’t ready.
These characters are the characters that I love, through and through. Writer Alex de Campi gives them a terrific bit of edge they normally lack, but they still never swear or drink or do any of the less-than-family-friendly things that real teens do. So when they start getting their spines ripped out, it’s jarring and upsetting in a way that something like Afterlife could never pull off (I keep comparing the two titles, but only because they are so different, and it’s precisely those differences which make them both so wrenching and brilliant).
Alright, that’s enough vague conceptual praise, what about the issue itself? It frames itself as simple setup for the rest of the series, but quite a lot actually ends up happening over the course of the first issue, and the pages just fly by as a result. De Campi strikes a perfect balance between the pacing of a traditional four-issue mini and that of a well-done Archie story, where entertaining happenings should be going down on every single page. Her take on the characters is, as mentioned, a little sharper than you’ll find in a typical double digest, her Reggie sleazier, her Dilton weirder, her Jason Blossom… Jay Gatsby-er? But never to the point of being out of character, so it works while still keeping things interesting and unpredictable.
Plus, she managed to get the ‘sexual tyrannosaurus’ line in, which is basically the highlight of my year to date, so. Reggie Mantle > Jesse Ventura, put that on my tombstone.
Fernando Ruiz’s art is, as usual, completely on point. I will make no secret that he’s far and away my favourite contemporary Archie house artist and his involvement was a large part of why I was so hyped for this book to begin with. I’m of the opinion that he’s among the best cartoonists currently working, and all of the reasons why are on display here. Consistency, a preponderance of fun background gags, always having characters doing or reacting to something as opposed to simply standing around, a knack for clothing the characters in visually interesting outfits, just great work all around, and that’s before he made my jaw drop by somehow making the freaking Predator look right at home in this world. Honestly, one of my biggest hopes for this series is that the wider audience the company’s been courting (largely with new titles using stylized, striking ‘outside’ artists) will now get the chance to see that just because something looks like a typical Archie comic doesn’t mean that it can’t look damn great, too.
Archie vs. Predator #1: 100% more spines than you’d probably expect. Check it out April 15th, 2015, from Dark Horse Comics.