In Review: Archie Vs. Predator II #1

A major misfire as the humor is lost in realistic visuals and colors that are too dark.

The covers: Seven covers to collect for the start of the slaughter of America’s favorite teens. The Main cover by Robert Hack with Kelly Fitzpatrick has Archie standing down in the center with Veronica to his right and Betty to his left. Miss Lodge has a massive rifle over her shoulder, while Miss Cooper has gone Negan with a baseball bat full of nails resting on her shoulder. Behind the trio is a monstrous Predator head roaring as it looks down upon them. Two full figured Predators are on either side of this frightening visage. Red is used as the background color, increasing the fury of the creatures. Nice. The Rick Burchett with Rosario “Tito” Peña Variant shows cartoony Archie, Betty, and Veronica confronting the realistically drawn Betty and Veronica of the television series. All are shocked at seeing their opposites, while emerging out of the darkness directly behind them is a gigantic Predator head. This shows how multiple Archie-verses collide in this issue, but I prefer the classic look of the characters. I laughed out loud when I saw the Derek Charm Variant. Archie and Veronica are sitting on a park bench, inches from smooching. Archie has his eyes closed while he puckers and leans into Veronica, who also is puckered and leaning into Archie. However, she has her eyes open and looking behind her as a Predator has appeared and is about to grasp the teens. Funny with excellent coloring. The Francesco Francavilla Variant has Archie somewhere I never would have expected. This cover is a bust shot of a helmeted Predator. The left side of the helmet is broken open revealing a frightened Archie Andrews inside. Archie is going to be a Predator? Oh, I definitely want to read this! The cover I picked up is the Dan Parent Variant because Parent’s version of Archie characters is the one I enjoy the most and I love this cover. Betty and Veronica are putting on a large red jacket, with each slipping on one sleeve. Assisting them is an eleven foot tall Predator, holding the jacket so they can each slip in an arm. The girls look great, the monster looks ghastly. There’s a white circle behind the creature to focus the eye and a soft yellow is the background. The bottom right corner is lifting up to reveal a scared Archiekins on a pink background. This is terrific. The final variant cover is by Billy Tucci with Wes Hartman and is a pretty creepy cover. In a swamp a Predator has it’s laser sights on Jughead. The antagonist has pulled its right hand back to swing its double blades at the helpless teenage. But Jughead is smarter than this. He’s set up his jacket and hat with a rifle to fool the creature, because he’s behind the beast with a spear to kill it. Great image and killer colors on this. The final cover is a Previews Exclusive from the San Diego Comic-Con limited to 3000 copies. It’s by Francavilla. This has Betty front and center dressed like a cross between Rambo and Katniss Everdeen. She has a crossbow in her hands and she looks forward ominously with a lowered head as she makes her way through a swamp. Behind her, as her ally, is a hulking Predator who looks warily ahead. Behind the pair is a yellow and orange miasma of colors that represent destruction. Barely emerging from the lower right corner is a street sign that designates Riverdale. This is a great cover for the art, the colors, and the content. This image is enough to get me hyped for this series. Overall grades: Main A-, Burchett Variant B-, Charm Variant A+, Francavilla Variant A-, Parent Variant A+, Tucci Variant A+, and Previews Exclusive A+

The story: The main drag in Riverdale looks like a war zone. Buildings are in ruins or are on fire. Bodies litter the streets, with one hanging from a telephone pole. Betty, Archie, and Veronica are walking down the center of this street. They introduce themselves to the reader, but Archie only talks in emojis. These characters are the survivors from the previous Archie vs. Predator series. Veronica tells the pair that they can return to their own timelines if they can find Memory Lane. As they turn a corner there’s a funny discovery in the first panel on Page 5. The three wallow in their situation before getting in a car on Page 9 and leaving Riverdale. On Page 12 they enter a familiar place. Things then get really weird in Alex de Campi’s story on 14 when a character enters a basement. A character picks up an object that catches the attention of the antagonists that set out to find why they’re being signaled. On Page 18 characters from opposing dimensions meet, which leads to the cliffhanger involving the baddies. This was a confusing read because I’m not up on all the Archie spin-offs, so having different Archie multiverse characters meet up had me grasping at straws. The transition between pages 13 and 14 was difficult. I want to see where this is going, but I felt like I’m not understanding everything. Overall grade: C+

The art: I wasn’t thrilled with Robert Hack’s work on this book. It looks good, but it’s not the style I associate with Archie Comics. As I read this book I realized that the characters were from the recent revamps and reboots of the Archie line, but having the characters look so realistic hurt the humor of the book: seeing G-rated character comic book characters battling an R-rated alien creature is outrageous. When the teens are drawn the same as the monster, much of the visual humor is lost. Case in point, the visual gag on Page 3 falls flat (no pun intended) because the character is drawn realistically. Now the joke on 5 works, but more so for the signage than the visuals. The backgrounds on the first seven pages are colored so darkly that they’re lost. This happens throughout the book: the coloring obscures too much of the artwork. The panels that look the best on these pages have no backgrounds and this undercuts Hack’s work. The transition that ends Page 13 isn’t clear enough to the reader. A visual change in style would have helped immensely. Backgrounds disappear entirely on 16, yet the character is still colored too darkly. The last page shows the antagonists’ arrival, but it’s hard to make out what’s in that interior panel. I’ve never seen these interiors so dark in the films, so why is it so dark in this comic book? This was a disappointing element of the book. Overall grade: C-  

The colors: As stated in the Art review, Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colors are too dark. One visual element of this series that should create humor are the colors. Archie Comics are traditionally bright. Using bright colors on a splatterfest would create much humor. Being focused on the rebooted Archie Comics, the colors are drab and drown in darkness. If the reader can’t see the visuals, why read a comic? This should have been a novel, then, instead of a comic book. There are bright colors in this book, used for panels without backgrounds or to increase actions in a panel, but this is infrequent and the book is absolutely overwhelmed by dark colors. Only faces pop on the pages. Rather than dwell on this element, just open to any page and you will come across a page obscured by darkness. I just don’t like these colors. Overall grade: D-

The letters: Jack Morelli is the book’s letterer creating the story’s title, dialogue and editor’s note (the same font), signage, emojis, sounds, and the three word tease for next issue. I have nothing but praise for Morelli’s work. I like the stark, matter-of-fact newspaper font for the story’s title. The dialogue is good looking, but the editor’s note early in the book should be in a different font, rather than differed by the color and shape of the balloons and box. There are several different fonts used for signage and they add a level of believability to the visuals. The sounds are dramatic and I’m sure there will be more as the story progresses. The high point of the book are the emojis used for Archie’s speech. They are funny and had me stopping to try to understand his responses. Overall grade: A 

The final line: A major misfire as the humor is lost in realistic visuals and colors that are too dark. If one doesn’t have a lot of knowledge of recent Archie titles this could also impede one’s enjoyment. I really wanted to like this series — I LOVED the first one, but the realism of the visuals is killing the joy. I might return for another issue, but my expectations are considerably lowered. Overall grade: C+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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