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Friday, March 20, 2015

Comic Spotlight Review: Archie Vs. Predator #1

Yes, you read that correctly. Archie Comics has done it again, pairing its classic all-American characters with an extremely unlikely partner, this time the space-faring hunter Predator. They've actually had a huge amount of success with stunts like this; from the legendarily weird Archie Meets the Punisher to Archie Meets Kiss to the wildly acclaimed Afterlife with Archie, they know how to make something that sounds just like a media spectacle into a really fun and satisfying read. So it is with only a little trepidation that I got a chance to check out Archie Vs. Predator #1, published by Dark Horse, written by Alex de Campi and drawn by Fernando Ruiz.

The setup is pretty simple and classic Archie: the gang just got out of school for spring break, and in solution to their inability to agree on where to go, Jughead wins a contest to take them all on a luxury beach vacation. While there, drama inevitably unfolds as Cheryl, played especially cruelly here, puts Betty against Veronica in a fashion contest that results in a surprisingly bloody altercation. All the while, the Predator stalks the teens from the jungle while they are absolutely oblivious to his hunt.
For the most part, it reads like your average Archie comic, albeit slightly more adult in tone. While it is nowhere near the violence and suggestiveness of Afterlife, there is at least one scene that is shockingly brutal as we see the bodies of Predator's first victims. Ruiz, a regular Archie artist, does a great job keeping things in the Archie mold while providing a fun level of cartooning to the antics of the group. Alex de Campi provides Ruiz with some fairly ridiculous but funny visual gags to play with, and it's hard not to crack a smile with some of it's just-barely-provocative humor.

What's really great about this 4-issue mini so far is exactly what makes the title stand out in the first place, the ludicrous pairing of these absolute opposites. De Campi does a great job of highlighting the silly contrast between the unsuspecting and innocent teens and the silent and mostly off-panel violence of the Predator. The creature is mostly in the background, and the regular Archie story is a fun one on its own, but its edges are tinged with little sparks of violence and a slightly more aggressive sexuality, albeit presented in a goofy way (Reggie claiming that he's a "gosh-darn sexual tyrannosaur").
Where things really get fun are in the "Predator view" that comes in at some key moments. The best of these is the Predator watching from a distance while Betty and Veronica get into a fight, and instead of the usual alien language analyzing its prey, we get cartoonish symbols that seem to suggest a sort of fascination with the two girls and the love triangle the form with Archie. It is this silent glance that convinces Predator to follow the gang back to Riverdale, where no doubt more bizarre hijinks will occur without anyone being the wiser.

Archie Vs. Predator #1 presents a really funny concept, and pulls it off in an unexpected way. De Campi's brings her history with b-horror stories to the forefront, applying it expertly to the Archie style, which Ruiz matches well. Ruiz also pulls off something that is no small feat, that of being able to draw the Predator, his distinctive visor view, and a horrific scene of its grotesque victims while never straying at all from that characteristic Archie look. While we haven't gotten to the meat of this story yet (pun intended), it will definitely be a fun ride with these two manning the helm of perhaps the weirdest crossover yet!

Archie Vs. Predator #1 hits comic shops on April 15th.
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