Story: Alex de Campi
Art: Robert Hack
Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letters: Jack Morelli
What They Say:
America’s favorite teen meets the galaxy’s fiercest hunter—again! Betty, Veronica and Predator-Archie have been left in the wreckage of their town, all their friends dead. Normally, they’d just go down Memory Lane and get home again where everything’s okay, but that’s no longer an option. It isn’t until they find an undamaged car and drive it down a different road where they can finally return to Riverdale—but their hometown feels different. And it’s made even more bizarre when they come face-to-face with a few people they’d never expect: themselves. Only different, newer versions. Little do they know, Predators on Mars are watching them—planning their next attack! Collects the full five-issue Archie vs. Predator II mini-series event.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The first Archie Vs Predator was a delightful love letter to both the Archie and Predator franchises that took the standard slasher template and gleefully took a shoulder-mounted laser to everyone’s favorite teens. It was bloody, full of Easter eggs, raucous, and a whole lot of fun, and I expected more of the same with this second installment, but Alex de Campi, Robert Hack, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Jack Morelli threw me a curveball and came up with something far more poignant and reflective than I expected, albeit colored with lots and lots of blood and gore.
The trade opens with a summary of the first miniseries, but just so we’re all on the same page here, in the first Archie Vs Predator our favorite teens took a summer trip to a tropical island where they fall in the sights of a teenage Predator. The Predator follows them back to Riverdale, goes through them like a lawnmower, and lots and lots of favorite characters die in gruesome, awful ways. It ends with Archie’s mind being fused with the Predator’s body. He, along with Betty and Veronica, are the lone survivors.
II begins with our trio wandering through the fiery wreckage of Riverdale, looking for Memory Lane, which will allow them to go back to a point in time before the carnage.
Right off the bat, you know you’re in for a different story. Archie Vs Predator I was drawn in the traditional Archie house style, but II adopts the new style established by Fiona Staples in the reboot she created with writer Mark Waid. The story also starts with Betty and Veronica speaking directly to the reader—a conceit also emblematic of the Staple-Waid reboot.
The trio eventually find the entrance to Memory Lane, but find it closed to make room for “A 500sf Luxury Retail Opportunity by Waid Enterprises.” With nowhere else to go, they steal Reggie’s car (it’s not like he’ll need it) and hit the road, hoping to find a different way to go back home.
The road home is often long and winding and leads to unexpected places. The trio do find Riverdale, but it’s not theirs, it’s the Riverdale of the reboot, complete with its own Archie, Betty, and Veronica, all drawn in the new style. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Dilton buys a Predator helmet off of eBay, not knowing what it actually is, so he can use it for his Daft Punk costume at the high school Halloween dance. The second he puts on the helmet, it signals a group of Predators who happen to be in the neighborhood, hanging around on Mars, making fun of the rover. They head off to investigate and to take back their wayward member, who, as you’ll remember, is now fused with Archie.
Make no mistake, these are not your father’s Predators: they’re bigger and nastier than the standard model we all knew and loved, and once again we’re treated to a bloodbath on the dance floor.
Both Archie and Predator were rebooted to make them more palatable or relatable to modern audiences, and this miniseries pays tribute to the classics. It’s a bloody, beautiful tribute to the originals that reminds us why they were so beloved.
Betty and Veronica stand at the heart of the story, and the emotional crux of their journey is their desire to go home and to be who they once were. Along with the trauma of seeing all their friends die in horrible ways, they also face an identity crisis with their reboot doppelgangers, who are more grounded in reality. No aliens, no magic, no wacky adventures. This makes them wonder if they were somehow too silly, or worse, irrelevant.
Strip away the blood and thunder, this is a story about growing up and learning how to be yourself outside of external expectations. And, to be clear, I’m not really making any insightful statements here, Alex de Campi says this in her foreword to this collection.
de Campi’s premise comes through beautifully, and Betty and Veronica’s identity crisis is something we can all relate to, having either gone through it or going through it right now. Also, the love that this creative team has for the now-classic versions of both Archie and Predator franchises is apparent in every panel, every line of dialogue.
Robert Hack’s pencils are perfect for bringing this story to life. He draws in the house style very well, and Kelly Fitzpatrick’s gritty color palettes add depth to his line work and add the right emotional nuance to the scenes to really bring them to life.
It might seem silly to think that a story about a Predator killing off the Archie characters could be poignant, but that’s one of the reasons why I love comics, and one of the reasons why Alex de Campi is one of my favorite comic writers. She has this talent for grounding the absurd in real, human emotions that can sometimes sucker-punch you. You come for the fun of the franchise and genre mashups, but in the end, you come away feeling for the characters more than you imagined. If that’s not good writing, I don’t know what is.
Dr. J gives this an…
Age Rating: None listed, but obviously not for kids.
Released By: Archie Comics
Release Date: April 15th, 2020