There was a seeming sense of finality to the original Archie vs. Predator, a series that left essentially all of Riverdale dismembered, disemboweled, or decapitated with the exceptions of Betty, Veronica, and a Predator remade to look like Archie. However, the tone of that original series left a lot of terrain to be explored and Archie vs. Predator II has discovered the perfect plot to continue subverting both the iconic Archie tropes and the collective comics medium. The first issue of this series picks up only moments after its predecessor's conclusion and quickly tears down the fourth wall so that its surviving characters recognize they are, in fact, comic book characters and ones able to explore the Archie multiverse. It's every bit as dark, wild, and engaging as one might imagine based on that brief synopsis.
The original series was focused on undermining classic Archie comics using the wanton bloodsport associated with the Predator franchise, and did so well. With that concept thoroughly explored, the narrative moves in a direction that is simultaneously more realistic and absurdist. Betty and Veronica are given additional space to breathe and their relationship is well considered. They speak, act, and engage as longtime friends struggling to decide how they might continue. There's an understated tone of despair as they acknowledge the tremendous losses, as well as their seemingly cancelled status. A brief sequence of the pair attempting to drive away from Riverdale captures a real sense of humanity.
Those responses are predicated on their awareness of being fictional, openly discussing possibilities of using Memory Lane to reset the timeline and readers eventually forgetting who they are. These moments are absurd, but are presented in a poignant fashion. There's an existential dread that rises above the pure shock value of this self-awareness. It's this grim humor that makes the Archie-Predator an essential ingredient in the issue. Alex de Campi's use of emoji language has never been better crafted, providing Archie-Predator with a clear personality and helping him to fill the role of Archie as a well-intentioned and charming, yet bumbling friend to both of the women. It is delightfully strange and weaves itself well within moments of real emotional weight.
The addition of artist Robert Hack helps realize this shift in direction as well. Fernando Ruiz was perfect for the original series, realizing the nostalgia for classic Archie comics with an excellent grasp of modern storytelling techniques. Hack loses the bubbly style of Ruiz in favor of something far more grim (like his work in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina). This style provides some much-needed grounding for the sillier moments of self-awareness. It also provides an excellent interpretation of the modern, sexier Archie characters found in successful reimaginings like Riverdale.
Archie vs. Predator II #1 delivers what might have seemed impossible, a rewarding sequel to a story that slaughtered its core cast and setting. Rather than repeating what made the original work, this narrative is allowed to explore further and really engage with its own premise as two aging intellectual properties attempting to reinvigorate one another. There is commentary on both halves, Archie Comics and Predator, but the heart of this issue is about more than familiar icons. It's a story about how we update our favorite stories and delivers a killer hook for this theme in its final pages. These pages should assuage any rational skepticism and restoke interest in what is bound to be one of the strangest and most intriguing concepts of 2019.
Published by Archie Comics
On July 24, 2019
Written by Alex de Campi
Art by Robert Hack
Colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letters by Jack Morelli
Cover by Robert Hack with Kelly Fitzpatrick