• Archie Vs. Predator (Trade Paperback)



    Archie Vs. Predator (Trade Paperback)
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: November 4th, 2015.
    Written by: Alex De Campi
    Illustrated by: Fernando Ruiz
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    There are, in the world of pop culture, things that come across as stupid, obnoxious cash-in opportunities on the part of those who control the rights to various iconic characters and properties that shouldn’t work, but do. Case in point? Archie Vs. Predator #1, the first issue of a new four issue limited series published by Dark Horse Comics (who hold the Predator license) and Archie Comics (who obviously hold the Archie license). Now, granted, Archie has been given a pretty goddamn awesome revival in recent times thanks to the Afterlife With Archie series and then later the Sabrina revamp, but what worked there won’t necessarily translate into a crossover, will it? Scribe Alex de Campi, who has been turning out consistently fantastic stories in her Grindhouse series for Dark Horse, doesn’t even attempt to go there.

    It’s spring break in Riverdale and Archie and the gang have just won a luxury beach vacation thanks to Jughead and his love of junk food. By the time we hit page two, they’ve arrived at Los Perdidos Resort and things look great, though Jughead is warned not to go into the jungle – there are jaguars there! So the gang settle in and commence to hanging out in that way that Archie characters tend to hang out, meaning that Reggie falsely boasts about a sexual conquest, Dilton does some typically nerdy stuff and Bettie dreams of a romance with Archie. They all notice the spaceship fall out of the sky and crash-land nearby, but most of them assume it’s a shooting star – something to celebrate, not to fear.

    The next day private school jerks Cheryl and Jason show up to show off, and Veronica runs off with them – always more interested in money and status than much else, it makes sense that she’d do that. Dilton, trying to get the yearbook done while on break, has a few popularity contests going on and Betty gets in on this like you’d least expect, which sets Veronica off in a big way and ends in a bloody fight sending Betty off into the jungle solo. Alone she finds a cave, and a ceremonial dagger inside that cave, but of course the others have become concerned and headed into the brush to look for her. You know what’s out there in that jungle, right? We saw the spaceship crash, we saw that creature lurking in the background in a few key panels… at this point it’s just matter of who will die first and who will make it out alive.

    The second issue of Archie Vs. Predator beings in Riverdale where Archie is hanging out with Betty, Veronica and Jughead chowing down on some burgers. Typical Archie stuff, really. Just then, as Pop brings out a welcome home cake, they learn of Chery and Jason’s deaths… and then witness first hand Pop’s own demise! Moose calls 911 while Betty mutters to herself that she’s the one responsible for this. She knows what this is all about and convinces Veronica to accompany her to Greendale to visit Sabrina. Betty thinks she may have put a curse on certain people and wants to undo it.

    The girls arrive at Sabrina’s place, the guys left completely in the dark as to what they’re up to. Sabrina lets them in and after Betty explains about the Jaguar Curse, she gets to work in hopes of undoing it. Before that can happen, the Predator shows up and puts an end to Sabrina’s magick, and to Sabrina herself! Betty gets it all on video and reviews the footage while Veronica raids Sabrina’s closest, her own clothes ruined with the arterial spray that followed in the Predator’s wake. Veronica is pretty sure that the Predator is a ninja obsessed with them and decides the best course of action is to get all the guys and the cops in once place, show up as bait, and lure the hunter into the light where he can be taken care of. They send out a text and get everyone together but then General Keller shows up and after seeing Betty’s footage realizes exactly what it is that they are up against. It’s then that they change the plan and get Jughead to impersonate Veronica in hope of getting the Predator into the trap they set out to create…

    Jughead, decked out in a dress and everything, heads through the bombed out streets of his hometown toward the high school setting off the trap that the kids had set not for him but for the Predator. He narrowly escapes with his life. He tells them everyone else is dead… but the Predator might have escaped. Of course the Predator escaped. “My friends…Moose…Kevin…Check…even Midge… I’m wearing what’s left of them!”

    Archie insists they stay put and wait for the cops, but no dice, the cops are no more. They disappeared while helping out at the Dillman House – the only thing left are a few goats, and goats probably can’t kill a Predator. The rest of the group take off, leaving Archie and Jughead and Betty and Veronica alone to deal with the problem. And Dilton. He’s there too, insisting they accompany him to the AV Room but when Jughead falls behind the group to get himself a snack out a vending machine they soon realize that the Predator is following them. It doesn’t end well and Archie decides he’s going to kill the Predator himself.

    They head to the AV Room but when both Betty and Veronica take solace in Archie’s arms, Dilton expresses his disdain for the fact that he’s a loser in a school where only dating matters even though he’s a good guy and a millionaire. A fair point to be sure, but his ‘obsession’ with Archie and his success with the ladies has had a positive outcome in the form of a battle suit he’s made, using Archie as inspiration! Will it be enough to take out a Predator? Maybe, if they can get the weapons engaged and it doesn’t malfunction.

    Archie, and what’s left of his crew, are in bad shape. The Predator has been taking them out left, right and center and when this fourth and final issue starts out, Betty and Veronica are holding a beaten and bruised red headed stud in their arms as their alien foe takes off his mask and pulls the skin off of his latest trophy. Just as it looks like the three of them are done for, the creature sees Veronica cry and walks off…

    …and it’s got something to do with that knife? Veronica brings herself and Betty to the panic room that her dad had installed after a Russian arms deal went south, a seriously wounded Archie tagging along – her plan is to blow the Predator up, the panic room will be strong enough to protect them. They get Archie stabilized and set the self destruct button that Veronica’s dad has puzzlingly had installed in their mansion and drags Betty off to get dressed. Sadly, the machine that Archie has been hooked up to has been cranked up way too high and he starts to change.

    The Predator shows up and Betty and Veronica open fire but will it be enough? And what’s happened to Archie? Oh and that self destruct feature built into the Lodge lodge? There’s no way to turn it off…

    The thrilling conclusion of Archive Vs. Predator is here and it doesn’t disappoint with the laughs or the carnage. Lots of goofy, gooey over-the-top gore here but somehow still all done in the tradition that has made the Archie comics so recognizable over the years. Alex de Campi gets it. She writes the characters in true Archie style and never pulls them out of the zone you’d expect them to behave and react within. It’s a fun story, a good mix of comedy, shocking gore and wacky comic book action. Without going into spoiler territory, it’s also interesting to see how the story defies expectations in terms of who does what and makes it out alive here. Some fun surprises for sure.

    Fernando Ruiz, with inks from Rich Koslowski and colors from Jason Millet, delivers just the right sort of art style for this series. This book LOOKS like a traditional Archie book. Where the Afterlife books go into darker territory and require a darker style this one stays firmly rooted in the Archie tradition and for that reason Ruiz keeps things very traditional with his illustrations. This doesn’t relate just to the Archie characters but to the Predator as well. The alien has come to their world, not the other way around.

    So yeah, now that it’s all over and done with, this was a really fun read. A great mix of humor and horror, adolescence and action, goofiness and gore gags. De Campi and Ruiz make a great team and hopefully this series did well enough that we’ll see them team up again for future endeavors such as this in the coming months or years.

    This trade paperback edition contains all four issues of the mini-series as well as a new introduction written by Archie Comics’ Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa that puts this series into context alongside other modern takes on Archie and other Archie crossover books that have been made over the years. He then goes on to talk about how this run was put together and his appreciation for how it turned out.

    There’s also an Afterword written by Brenden Wright, the series’ editor, who gives a lengthy take on how things came together on this run, what it was like working with De Campi and Ruiz, and how ‘it was all my idea!’ It’s a fun read. If you keep reading past that, you’ll also find some other fun Archie crossover stories in which the Riverdale gang meet up with different Dark Horse characters, each written by Alex De Campi. Here you’ll find Sabrina Meets Hellboy (illustrated by Robert Hack), Lil’ Archie And His Pals Meet Itty Bitty Mask (illustrated by Art Baltazar), Jughead Meets Mind MGMT (illustrate by Matt Kindt) and Josie And The Pussycats Meet Finder (illustrated by Carla Speed McNeil).

    If that weren’t enough, Dark Horse has also included a gallery of all the variant covers that were produced for the mini-series – look for more horror themed pieces here from Eric Powell, Francesco Francavilla, Colleen Coover, Darick Robertson with Jason Millet, Andrew Pepoy with Jason Millet, Dennis Calero, Patrick Spaziante, Robert Hack with Stephen Downer, Dustin Nguyen, Kelley Jones with Michelle Madsen, Paul Pope with Shay Plummer, Faith Erin Hicks with Cris Peter, Joe Quinones, Tim Seeley, Richard P. Clark, Fernando Ruiz with Anwar Hanano and Richard Koslowski. Following that we get a nice collection of promo art done to hype the series at different conventions and events, some page of character studies illustrated by Ruiz, some art process pages showing how things go from sketch to finished page and last but not least a couple of pages of unused cover sketches.