This review contains spoilers.
In the two decades since Archie Meets the Punisher was released, Archie Comics has experienced an unprecedented change of fortune that now sees the company at the height of their creative powers. In the wake of that infamous Marvel crossover, as well as the criminally underrated Archie Meets Kiss, another high-concept event comic like the just-released Archie vs. Predator was inevitable.
A colloboration between Archie and Dark Horse Comics (who currently have the Predator license), the book chronicles what happens when the alien hunter encounters the typical teens from Riverdale. With a premise like that, how the comic be anything but extraordinary? Unfortunately, that was a question that readers may find themselves asking while reading the first installment of this four-issue miniseries.
After Jughead wins a vacation for him and his pals (from a potato chip bag, natch), the gang heads to the exotic beach resort of Los Perdidos. Once there, the pals and gals find their good time complicated by rich rivals Jason and Cheryl Blossom as well as a particulary vicious fight between Betty and Veronica. When Betty returns after briefly going missing, Archie and company decide to head home…but they’ve unwittingly brought something back with them. Annnd that’s about it. Which brings us to the main problem with this issue, it is all exposition designed to get the Predator back to Riverdale.
This isn’t problematic in and of itself, but coupled with the fact that the characters are a bit off-model and nasty (Reggie is exceptionally sleazy here, going so far to make a jarring joke about wishing to get to third base with Veronica) the book feels more Mean Girls Meets Predator than anything else. All of these problems can be attributed to first time Archie writer Alex de Campi is finding her bearings with the characters and their relationships. Now that the story has gotten from point A to point B with a surprisingly low body count thus far, things should pick up in future installments. If anything, the biggest complaint about this issue is that it couldn’t possibly live up to the expectations swirling around it. Archie has been on an absolute roll of late, and anything that doesn’t match the high bar set by Afterlife with Archie is bound to be a disappointment. While this debut has its moments (including some subtle references to the first Predator film), it’s not quite where it should be yet.
So what works? Veteran Archie illustrator Fernando Ruiz’s work is a career best here, with his bright illustrative style providing a needed contrast to the story’s darker elements. Additionally, there is a surprise Sabrina Meets Hellboy back-up tale written by de Campi and illustrated by Robert Hack that is so rousing despite its brevity that it threatens to outshine the main story.
Ultimately, Archie vs. Predator is a fun read, but it is one with some untapped potential and some easily fixable problems. With the Predator in Riverdale by story’s end, things are almost certain to pick up from here. Let’s hope so, because with a little work this one could be a classic.