Never ever let it be said that Archie Comics is content to let their flagship character stagnate. Coming off of the tragic death of Archie Andrews in Life with Archie, and the atmospheric, zombie-infested Afterlife with Archie, you’d think that Archie Comics would want to take a breather, and make something a little more traditional. Instead, they’ve teamed up with Dark Horse Comics to set Archie on a collision course with el diablo cazador de hombres – the devil that hunts men – in Archie vs. Predator.
From the first page onwards, writer Alex de Campi makes it clear that she’s having the time of her life writing this. She knows how ridiculous this concept is, and lovingly embraces that fact. Her passion for both series is obvious here; the issue is is chock full of hidden guest stars that fans of the 1987 film will recognize right away. De Campi also knows these characters well, particularly Archie and his pals, enough to turn all of their worst traits up to eleven, without losing the dynamics between characters or making them completely unlikable. The characters feel very much like they belong in a deliciously cheesy slasher flick, with the Predator waiting just above their heads to make trophies out of all of them.
What makes the whole book work, however, is the art. Rather than follow the route of Afterlife with Archie and go with a dark, semi-realistic style, penciller Fernando Ruiz, inker Rick Koslowski, and colorist Jason Millet work together to draw the book in the classic Archie house style. Not only do the Archie characters look exactly like they’re supposed to look, but the Predator itself looks like it has always belonged in the Archie universe. The juxtaposition of bloody violence with wholesome, animated characters only adds to the humor of the book, while adding a layer of dread and impending slaughter.
The only qualm so far is that the first issue feels more like set-up for the real madness later-on, and at this point gives the impression that it will read better when the whole story is all collected in the trade paperback. Beyond that, however, this issue makes a very good first impression. The entire creative team feel like they’re on the same page, working together perfectly to mash these two franchises together in order to make something really, really entertaining. If the book can maintain it’s self-aware insanity going forward, then Archie Vs. Predator will be a book that will be remembered for far more than it’s unusual premise.