In Review: Red Sonja and Vampirella Meet Betty and Veronica #3

This book is tremendous fun. Get it.

The covers: This issue features eleven different covers with something for everyone. The A frontpiece features art by Fay Dalton. Vampirella is locked in jail, casually wiping the blood from her mouth with a pinky finger. She has one leg up on her bench and ignores the concern from Veronica, Sonja, and Betty who peer in at her from the other side of the bars. Betty is in cheerleader wear, Sonja in a crop top and torn jeans, and Veronica is in an orange blouse and metallic slacks. Great cover that shows one character in possible danger, but I’d be more worried about those locked in with the vampire. The B cover by Robert Hack is utterly fantastic. It’s a 45 record sleeve with the record sticking out of the top. The illustration on the sleeve features the title characters posed in the style of the iconic band from the Archie cartoon. Betty has a tambourine, Vampirella is wailing along as she plays guitar, Sonja is on drums, and Veronica is on the keyboard. I love everything about this and I wish that was real. Next up is the stunning C by Laura Braga and Bryan Valenza. Betty is in the center holding a flashlight aimed at the reader. To her right is Vampirella with a bat flitting from her hand. On Betty’s left is Veronica holding an odd wand with both hands. On one knee before the three is Sonja supporting a massive battleaxe on her shoulders. This is fantastic and is definitely poster, print, and tee shirt worthy. One of my favorite artists is Dan Parent and he’s created a terrific D cover. The gigantic visages of Vampirella and Sonja look down upon the Riverdale gals who are holding one another in fear since they’re surrounded by flames. I love Parent’s classic Archie work and am always seeking out the covers he creates. This is another winner from him. The E cover by Cat Staggs is also great. Betty and Veronica’s faces are at the top of this illustration, both looking as if they’re receiving news they doubt. Beneath them in the center are the Pussycats playing a song. On the left is Vampirella behind bars. On the right is Sonja dressed as Riverdale High’s quarterback. The bottom has a bag of partially emptied blood, handcuffs, and pompoms drenched in crimson. When is Staggs not delivering the goods? The B&W Incentive by Parent features the same illustration as the D, sans colors and flames. I love his work, so I will also seek this cover out. The The B&W Incentive by Braga also lacks colors and it’s the same artwork used on the C cover. It looks good. The “Virgin” Incentive by Braga and Valenza is the C cover without any text. It’s a winner. The “Virgin” Incentive by Parent is the D cover without text. Again, one I will have to hunt down. The “Virgin” Incentive by Dalton is the same as the A without text. Very nice. And the final cover is the “Virgin” Incentive by Staggs which is the E with the text omitted. I actually like this cover slightly better because I can see all of what Staggs did. Overall grades: A A, B A+, C A+, D A+, E A, B&W Incentive Parent A, B&W Incentive Braga A, “Virgin” Incentive Braga A+, “Virgin” Incentive Parent A+, “Virgin” Incentive Dalton A, and “Virgin” Incentive Staggs A+

The story: Amy Chu continues to craft a story full of mystery, fun, and horrors. The book opens with Betty asking Dilton to investigate why there’s a picture in a Riverdale yearbook from the seventies that has pictures of her, Veronica, Sonja, and Vampirella: they didn’t know each other until a few days ago. He doesn’t know, but will try to find the answer. Once alone, an unknown person enters the room and slashes him. Betty and Sonja walk into the room before the killer can leave and Sonja chases the man while Betty calls 911. The runners go to the second floor where the killer stops and says, “Du-te Dracu, Sonja” and leaps out the window. He escapes, but the Hyrkanian notices blood on some of the glass. “At least he bleeds like a mortal. This attacker is no demon.” Dilton is in a coma and the women are stumped as to where to turn next. Sonja tries to take out some of her aggression, but that results in a conversation on 8 and 9 that has her getting in trouble. My hat is off to Chu for how Sonja is kept from being expelled; as a high school English teacher I can state from experience that she got that right. I liked the meta pouring out of Betty on 11 and Veronica’s suggestion for breakfast on 12. Betty and Vampirella go to a location so Ms. Cooper can do the right thing, while the supernatural lass follows to help herself. There’s a neat cliffhanger to his issue which promises there will be quite a bit of chaos at one location. This is an incredibly enjoyable issue that has all the characters being true to their pasts. Bravo, Ms. Chu! Overall grade: A

The art: The first panel of this issue is a terrific nod to the past from artist Maria Laura Sanapo as the characters’ yearbook photos are drawn in classic Archie fashion while another photograph is drawn much more realistically. The second page has Dilton’s surprise a solid shock as he turns to greet someone unseen and Sanapo has the final panel show the books and papers he was examining covered in a spray of blood. It’s as horrific as anything one could see in a film; it’s also impressive that she creates this terror without having any characters in the panel. Given the spray of crimson, I’m glad she didn’t go there! I like how the next three pages shows the killer without revealing his face. Very cool! The killer’s exit at the top of 5 is awesome — I love his pose and the shards of glass. I also like how Sanapo has Betty and Veronica holding one another in support and grief at their friend’s state, while Sonja and Vampirella look on considering what should be done next — this exactly how each character would react in this situation. I loved the two characters speaking to Sonja on 8 and 9, with the last individual giving a possible visual clue as to who is responsible for Riverdale’s woes. Vampirella’s reaction at the bottom of 13 makes me smile each time I look at it. Page 17 also makes me smile because of where the character finds herself and her reaction to it. The reveal at the bottom of 18 is a surprise and excellent foreshadowing to this issue’s conclusion. The large panel on the penultimate page is an outstanding “Uh-oh!” visual because there is no rational reason for this character to be in this position. The panel that tops the final page is unquestionably fitting given what precedes it. That last panel is beautiful and contains so much promise of future troubles. I’ll buy any book illustrated by Sanapo who is knocking this book’s visuals out of the park. Overall grade: A

The colors: Vinicus Andrade is the colorist on this issue and his work looks good. I was especially pleased to see that the senior pictures on the opening page were in color, while the portrait was in black and white. The shading is great throughout, which is proven by the colors in Betty’s clothes and hair on the first page. The splash of red that ends the second page is realistic and jarring when contrasted against the boring colors of the research room. I love the colors that are outside the window on Page 4 — just gorgeous! I like that every shard of glass is colored superbly at the top of 5. The five o’clock shadow on the character on 9 made me laugh out loud because it’s so grounded in reality. I really like that Vampirella is wearing a dark crimson top in the book’s last half, making it a subtle hint of her dark nature. The blues on 17 create a great sense of cold, but also a sense of stillness, which perfectly suits the situation. The colors on the character at the end of 19 are phenomenal. This is terrific work from Andrade. Overall grade: A

The letters: This issue’s text by Taylor Esposito includes dialogue, screams, yells, a foreign phrase, sounds, scene settings, and signage. I’ve been following Esposito’s work for years and I know he’s always going to bring his A-game. The screams and yells punctuate all the actions, making the visuals seem much more urgent. The quick foreign phrase on 4 looks unlike all the other dialogue of the issue, with stretched out letters that give it an unearthly quality. Sonja’s practice has some fitting and funny sounds. The scene settings are bold, instantly drawing the reader’s eyes and resembling something one would expect to see on a mailing from Riverdale High. Overall grade: A

The final line: Mystery, murder, and laughs with beautiful visuals make this a book that every fan should own. I love how Chu is able to have all the characters true to their pasts while teaming up for this unlikely tale. The mystery is good, the scares strong, and the cliffhanger terrific. The visuals are the stuff of dreams, capturing all the innocence of the Riverdale girls and all the action and horror of the iconic pair displaced in time. Every page is wonderful. This book is tremendous fun. Get it. Overall grade: A

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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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