No one’s more surprised than me that I’m writing a post about not one, but two Archie books I love, but that just goes to show that I was previously being close-minded about this company AND that they’re pretty awesome right now.
A few years back I read and really enjoyed the horror-drenched Afterlife With Archie and continues to find myself interested in the various Archie books coming out. So, while perusing my library’s website, I jumped at the chance to request Archive Volume One and Archie Vs. Predator. Both are fantastic for very different reasons.
The first volume of the Mark Waid-written Archie series that launched in 2015 features amazing artwork by Fiona Staples, Annie Wu and Veronica Fish. The artists bring a very current and fashionable tone to a series that works perfectly with Waid’s attempts to update these decades-old characters for a more modern audience (whether they be actual teens or older dudes like myself).
Story-wise, this book kind of works like a Year One update of the whole Riverdale gang that brings many of the Archie Comics basics into the modern world. We kick off meeting Archie Andrews, a clumsy but lovable dude who just broke up with his longtime girlfriend Betty over mysterious circumstances and now finds himself drawn to the new rich girl in town Veronica Lodge. Unfortunately for ol’ Archiekins, he’s in deep with Veronica’s dad for accidentally destroying his mansion during the building process.
The great trick that Waid and the artists pulled off was making me feel like I was eavesdropping on a world that isn’t really for me anymore. These felt like real kids with real teen-centric problems, the kinds that I’m glad to not currently relate to, but can remember. In that way, it felt like watching any non-super CW or Freeform show. This trick becomes all the more impressive when you sit back and consider that the whole thing is built around characteristics and ideas that have been around since Archie debuted way back in 1941.
While Archie updates the look and feel of the classic characters and settings, Archie Vs. Predator by Alex de Campi and Fernando Ruiz almost lulls you into a false sense of security by setting up a tale featuring the gang from Riverdale as you or your parents would imagine them and then pulling out the rug and having heads blown off and spines pulled out.
And you know what? This might be my favorite Predator comic so far. I’ve read a fair amount of the Dark Horse output and haven’t been that taken because they tend to retread the films to various extents. By the way, I LOVE the Predator movies. This comic does a great job of taking what we know and love from the films — heat-attracted hunters who go after people with weapons — and mixing that with not only the Riverdale crowd but also throwing in jungle curses and magic knives and a variety of other beats that bring all these sections together into a delightful whole.
To get a bit deeper into the story, Archie and company win a spring break trip to the Los Perdidos Resort (which happens to play home to a place called Dutch’s Beach Bar!!!). Eventually they run attract the attention of a young Predator there on his or her own holiday. After he kills Cherry Blossom and her brother, the Pred follows the kids back to Riverdale where he makes short work of the assembled high school dudes trying to play army man under the command of Kevin Keller’s dad (who’s actually in the military).
Though Archie, as always, remains in the center of this tale, Betty and Veronica actually steer the ship and also continue to battle the alien monster who seems intent on exposing their insides to the outside world. Thanks to some awesome comic book-y science machines we get to see Dilton in an Archie suit of robot armor, a roided up Archie battling the Predator and an explosion that does away with the threat, though not necessarily the Predator.
Again, I love how de Campi played with all of these different elements to tell a story I couldn’t help reading and how Ruiz stuck so well to the Archie style we all know and love while also throwing in hefty amounts of gore.
At the end of the day, what I love about both of these books is how Archie as a company allows creators to come in and do a variety of different things with these characters your parents or even grandparents read. Allowing Waid to bring the teen exploits into the modern era and de Campi to, well, destroy many of the kids by way of alien warrior will continue to bring in new fans like myself who now want to look around and see what other amazing interpretations of their characters Archie Comics allows killer creators to create.