For decades, the various Archie titles – featuring a cast of ordinary teens in gently comedic situations – were seen as a bastion of family friendly, inoffensive and somewhat conservative stories in the comic book world. Debuting in 1941, the teens of Riverdale – Archie and his pals – changed very little in terms of style, tone and content, with only minor updates in scenery and, as an example, the styles of things like cars to denote the passage of time. Though dependable and one of the few comic publishers remaining ‘safe’ for readers of all ages, it has to be said that the Riverdale-based titles often felt pretty dull.
The 21st century has finally brought about change in Riverdale, however, with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (whose play about Archie growing up and coming out of the closet was hit with a cease-and-desist order by Archie Comics just a day before it was scheduled to open in 2003) writing horror-based Archie titles such as Afterlife with Archie shortly prior to being appointed as the company’s Chief Creative Officer. Today, Archie Comics – despite the familiar, cosy and nostalgic style still in place in their main line’s titles – has a reputation for much more diversity and inclusion than it did previously (with one of their titles, Kevin Keller, featuring an openly gay character, as one example of this).
So it probably shouldn’t be so jarring or unexpected to see Archie crossing over with the unlikeliest of characters: Predator (especially as it’s not the first time the character has crossed over with a more violent character – Archie Meets The Punisher came out way back in 1994, for example). Though the horror-based Archie titles take the characters and put them in a far darker setting with more realistic art to match, however, Archie vs Predator keeps the jaunty, classic cartoony style that’s been a trademark of Archie since the character’s debut.
And somehow, it works. It’s wittily written by Alex de Campi with some cheeky little references to dialogue and scenes featured in the Predator movies, along with a few knowing nods to crossovers that Archie has previously been a part of (including a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it image of the aforementioned Punisher meeting). It doesn’t skimp on the violence either, with copious amounts of blood and gore throughout. It’s not afraid to kill off familiar characters in horrific ways either – and it’s a surprising delight to see the Predator itself rendered in the Archie house style. Other unlikely crossovers are featured as brief backup strips in each issue too (Sabrina Meets Hellboy and Little Mask & his Pals – an Archie/Mask crossover – for example)
It’s a crossover that no one expected and no one thought would actually work, but it really does thanks to the great writing and darkly comic tone. In fact, it worked so well that a sequel followed in 2019 – Archie vs Predator II – though this did move away from the familiar Archie style with a much more modern, mature feel to its art. No doubt the sequel is a comic I’ll be making time to review at some point in the future.
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