Review: Archie vs. Predator
Alex de Campi (script), Fernando Ruiz (pencils), Rich Koslowski (inks), Jason Millet (colors), John Workman (letters)
Dark Horse Comics
November 4, 2015
I am a little ashamed to admit that I have not yet read any of Alex de Campi’s work. I am familiar with Alex de Campi, because she says really smart and interesting things about the horror genre: about having fun with it and not using death and violence as motivation for the hetero white male character’s vengeance because that shit is old hack. Plus she says things like this:
“Trashy went away for a while, and I’m bringing it back. I am.” —Interview with Cassandra Clarke at Multiversity Comics
Be still my beating heart! I’m a fan of horror, particularly tacky and campy horror. I just love the spectacle. Thus, when the advanced review copy of the trade paperback for Archie vs. Predator hit the WWAC editorial inbox, I jumped on it. The absurdity of Archie vs. Predator seemed like the perfect entry point for de Campi’s work.
This review is based on an advanced review copy from Dark Horse and does contain some spoilers. Proceed with caution.
This four-chapter miniseries sees the Archie gang enjoying a spring break beach vacation to an island with some secrets. Cheryl and Jason Blossom show up to antagonize them, but the gang hightails it out of there when things start to get weird. Unfortunately, the strange evil they encountered on the island follows them to Riverdale.
As the success of Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has proven, Riverdale is a ripe location for horror. There’s the small-town setting with the tinge of despair of the suburbs and class tension, plus teenagers that never, ever age. And while those two series take a far darker tone, Archie vs. Predator embraces these tropes with campy delight and an eye towards inverting them.
There’s a lot of the typical Archie stuff here: Archie is a goofus, Veronica and Betty battle over Archie, and there’s a fashion contest with the boys swooning over the wretched clothing. (Seriously, why is the fashion usually so bad in Archie? Unless it’s Fiona Staples on art?) It’s a lot of the typical, and often sexist, stuff you find in an Archie comic, which is why Archie lends itself so well to cheeky takes on horror tropes.
Numerous scenes involve Betty and Veronica in tattered, miniscule clothing. The writing and art make it clear that Betty and Veronica are engaging in their own objectification as scenes depict them stripping down to their underwear—a seeming requisite scene for a horror movie. In an ever so brief scene, Chuck calls Reggie on his sexism, and Nancy makes an on-the-nose comment about minority characters dying first, which results in her, Ginger, and Ethel quickly fleeing Riverdale. We learn human carnage won’t prevent Jughead from eating a chocolate cake, and Veronica Lodge does not have time for any of the PTSD bullshit that would naturally result from seeing your friends slaughtered.
It’s fun and self-aware though at times this self-awareness becomes more dull than droll. At this point in media, self-awareness in horror has been going on since, at the very least, Scream. I am ready for more than cheeky self-awareness and double entendres. For example, how cool would it be to see a cat fight between Betty and Veronica as a genuine fight? I bet Betty has a mean right hook, and you know, Veronica does not fight fair. That being said, the twist at the end ultimately satirizes the Betty vs. Veronica dynamic (as it should). It’s just that occasionally some of the parts don’t always make up for the whole.
Fernando Ruiz’s art is in Archie house style and cartoonishly dynamic though still distinct from Dan’s—either DeCarlo’s or Parent’s—style, and the art makes the gore particularly shocking. As Afterlife with Archie and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s art is appropriately atmospheric to their subject matter, rampant gore in the Archie house style is startling. Further, the typical flat coloring is “more rendered” for dimensionality. Admittedly, I am accustomed to the limited rendering of the Archie comics of yore, so the increased rendering took some adjusting, but the shading does lend itself to the dynamism of movement necessary to the story—especially when characters are running for their lives or the Predator is ripping heads off bodies, spine intact.
The trade paperback includes bonus crossover stories and variant covers. These stories include a crossover where Sabrina meets Hellboy as drawn by Robert Hack. Well, I have a huge comics crush on Hack, so this story was my uncontested favorite, but overall the bonus stories are a fun edition where artists with distinct styles get to veer from the house style. Also, Carla Speed McNeil should draw all the Josie and the Pussycats.
If you haven’t yet read de Campi’s work or you enjoy having your expectations of Archie startled, then curl up with this trade and some cheap beer. Add some tense music for effect.