Advance Review – Archie vs. Predator #1 (Dark Horse Comics)

Fernando RuizPublisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Alex de Campi
Penciller: Fernando Ruiz
Inker: Rich Koslowski
Colorist: Jason Millet
Release Date: 15th April, 2015

Archie Comics have been a part of some pretty ‘out there’ crossovers in the past (Archie meets The Punisher, anyone?), but nothing quite like this. When the announcement was made at NYCC last year, it almost sounded like a wind-up – a joke project announced to see if anyone was really paying attention. Then, people actually stopped to think about it. Afterlife With Archie had been an unqualified success, so perhaps there was some more scope in taking Archie out of his comfort zone again. Plus, Alex de Campi? This was a writer with some real, ‘grown-up’ horror chops. Maybe this could be something special, after all. Well, after having an advance look at the first issue, I can confirm that yes, Archie versus Predator is most definitely the real deal.

Interestingly, while other properties such as ‘Afterlife with Archie’ have very much been traditional horror comics that just so happen to have the familiar faces from Riverdale in them, this absolutely feels like a regular Archie comic – albeit one with the galaxy’s greatest Predator hunting the gang. What we have here, essentially, is the opening act of a teen slasher move, featuring our gloriously clueless victims flirting and bickering and laughing and joking, all the while blissfully unaware that something sinister is watching them from the shadows, preparing to make its move.  

The inclusion of established Archie artist Fernando Ruiz is a truly inspired decision, giving this book an utterly authentic feel that significantly enhances the surreal nature of the story. For the bulk of this issue, this is a fairly by-the-numbers Archie comic, complete with Betty and Veronica vying for Archie’s affections, Jughead  thinking with his stomach, and all the light-hearted teen banter and drama that fans of the franchise know and love. It’s only the occasional panel when we see the group picked out in the familiar thermal ‘heat vision’ that helps remind us that something is most definitely amiss.

Writer Alex de Campi has made her name with a fairly diverse body of work ranging from My Little Pony to Grindhouse, making her pretty much the perfect fit for a title like this, and here she’s given the opportunity to combine her twin loves of teen comics and horror in a beautifully-pitched story that brings out the best of both genres. She captures the banter of the gang brilliantly, wisely pushing Betty to the foreground ahead of the somewhat insipid male leads who spend the majority of the issue oggling and drooling over the ladies. She also takes great pleasure in throwing in several Easter Eggs for fans of the Predator movies, making sure this series remains more of a homage than a parody.

The violence is kept to a minimum for the time being, although we do get to see some of the results of the Predator’s actions during one particular panel – a panel which would, in any other context, look shockingly out of place in the colourful, saccharine world of Archie and Pals. The Predator itself is brilliantly translated into the Archie ‘house style’ too, adding to the authenticity of the story and somehow managing to not lose any of its menace in the process. Okay, so if Ruiz’s Predator showed up in Dark Horse’s Fire and Stone, Galgo and co. would likely fall about laughing, but in the cartoony world of Archie Comics, he more than does the job.

While it’s perhaps a little too much ‘Archie’ and not enough ‘Predator’ so far for my tastes, this is still an extremely encouraging start to one of the most gloriously bonkers mash-ups that you’re likely to see this year. While the real meat of the story is still to come (and I mean that literally as well as figuratively), the tone established so far by DeCampi all but guarantees that this is going to become something truly memorable. So whether Archie and Jughead end up smeared in mud battling their alien assailant to the death, or with their skulls and spinal columns hanging on a trophy room wall somewhere, you can most definitely count me in for the rest of this story… which is a sentence I honestly never thought I’d write in a comic review.

Rating: 4/5.

COVER VARIANTS (L-R: Fernando Ruiz, Eric Powell, Francesco Francavilla)
[Click to Enlarge]

576682_510764502303144_947146289_nThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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