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    “Archie vs. Predator #1” Sees The Heat of Our Bodies and The Heat of Our Fear [Advance Review]

    By | March 25th, 2015
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    You’ve seen him get chased by zombies. You’ve seen him team up with the Punisher. You’ve seen him take a bullet to save the life of a United States senator. In this comic, Archie will experience every meaning of the word “Pain.” Check out our spoiler-free review of “Archie vs. Predator” #1 below!

    Written by Alex de Campi
    Pencilled by Fernando Ruiz

    America’s favorite teen meets the galaxy’s fiercest hunter! Archie and friends hit Costa Rica for Spring Break, where party games and beach games are soon replaced by the Most Dangerous Game! What mysterious attraction does the gang hold for the trophy-collecting Predator, and will the kids even realize they’re in danger before it claims them all?
    • The wildest Archie crossover ever (and that’s saying something)!
    • From Alex de Campi (Grindhouse, My Little Pony)
    • Variant covers by Eric Powell (The Goon) and Francesco Francavilla (Afterlife with Archie)!

    It’s 2015 and Archie Andrews is fighting Predator. Pop culture is dead. Long live pop culture.

    “Archie vs. Predator” #1 kicks off with the Riverdale teens preparing for spring break. Jughead just won a contest that earns him and apparently the entire teenage population of Riverdale an all-expenses paid trip to Costa Rica. But what these teens don’t realize is that they didn’t win a trip to paradise, they earned a trip to hell.

    Okay, maybe not. But “Archie vs. Predator” is still pretty dark, even if it’s immediately obvious about it. If we’re going to compare “Archie vs. Predator” to anything, then “Afterlife with Archie” is bound to come up. That comic created a twisted version of Riverdale cast in gloom and gore, but with the American idealism of Archie Comics radiating from its core. “Archie vs. Predator” takes a different sort of approach, by making an Archie comic with a Predator story underneath.

    For all intents and purposes, “AvP” (oh goddammit) is your typical Archie story. Wacky vacation, Betty/Veronica shenanigans, and a final moral recap scene with the actual line “I guess it’s not about where you go that makes the holiday… It’s who you bring with you!” Some Predator fans may be upset by the issue’s seeming prioritization of Archie over the dreadlocked alien hunter, but minimizing Predator’s screen time allows for “AvP” to be all the more shocking when it finally gets to the gore. The Cloverfield approach might not work when you have an interesting monster being overshadowed by boring white teens but when an alien hunter is contrasted with the< most boring white teens it creates for an odd case of tonal whiplash.

    Of course, what makes that whiplash work is how it actually comes as a surprise. If you look at “Afterlife with Archie”, Francavilla’s art tells you right away you’re in for a dark and spooky journey. Fernando Ruiz’s pencils, meanwhile, resemble a typical Archie story you’d find in your grocery store’s Double Digest. While the classic Archie style may seem boring to some, it works as an amazing contrast to moments when the wrist blades start flying. It only happens once this issue, but the transition from a popularity contest on the beach to an unseen display of ripped-out spines is weirdly hilarious, especially since the Archie crew is just so oblivious to it. Though there’s not much conflict between Archie and Predator this issue, there’s a noticeable clash between the tones of both characters. Archie’s not just being hunted by a Predator, his own comic is being invaded by the violence and gore that comes with a Predator one.

    That’s not to say there isn’t anything to enjoy about the Archie-centric portions of the comic, which are admittedly most of it. Alex de Campi’s take on the teens of Riverdale is acidic, with Betty, Veronica, and especially Cheryl Blossom digging into each other. Speaking of which, Cheryl Blossom is the absolute highlight of this issue as the literal embodiment of the one percent. Without going into specifics, the sentence “Death to the proletariat!” is an actual line of her dialogue. Cheryl’s bourgeoise status speaks to a larger self-awareness that goes on throughout the issue, mostly for the smaller characters. While Archie is typically selfless, wishing for nothing more than a memorable holiday, others like Reggie aren’t so wholesome. I expected the zombies, I even kind of saw a crossover with Predator coming, but I never thought I’d see the phrase “third base” in Archie comic. That’s not to say “AvP” is all crass humor but the more adult content set against antics like Betty trying to one-up certainly works. Not just when it comes to oral sex jokes, but Predator tears people’s spines out too.

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    Ultimately, that seems to be the great strength of “Archie vs. Predator”: subtlety. No, I can’t believe those words came together to form that sentence either. Rather than aim for an action film starring Archie and Ms. Grundy’s flayed corpse or an overtly cutesy Predator comic, De Camp and Ruiz have crafted a comic that balances the violence of Predator with the wholesomeness of Archie. And when the two are set against each other, the conflict makes for some really funny storytelling. That’s why (as the blood-splattered credits page demonstrates) this comic isn’t called “Archie Meets Predator.” “Archie vs. Predator” is the essence of what makes Archie comics work in conflict with what makes Predator work. It’s literally Archie versus Predator.

    Final Verdict: 7.8 – “Archie vs. Predator” #1 isn’t just a darkly funny crossover. It’s smart. Alex de Campi and Fernando Ruiz navigated the tropes of both worlds to create a book that functions beyond the initial shock of the premise. There’s also a back-up “Sabrina the Teenage Witch Meets Hellboy” story that needs to be the next mini-series which is absolutely worth reading. If that’s not the next mini-series, I’ll probably complain about it on the internet.

    James Johnston

    James Johnston is a grizzled post-millenial. Follow him on Twitter to challenge him to a fight.