Archie vs. Predator #3

Not unlike the scenario in "Afterlife With Archie," "Archie vs. Predator" #3 finds Archie and his friends sequestered together and seeking safety from a deadly, monstrous menace out to kill them. Nonetheless, regular "Archie" artists Fernando Ruiz and Rich Koslowski deliver their story in the publisher's standard house style, including not-so-standard images of bloody entrails and severed spinal cords. Writer Alex de Campi takes a more centered approach, balancing the normally jovial and relatively trouble-free locale of Riverdale with the horrific nature of the Predator franchise, genuinely trying -- and mostly succeeding -- to find that balance and wring out whatever comedy can be had. Sometimes, though, the laughs stem from familiar and iconic characters finding their head -- and other parts -- separated from the rest of them.

Dark Horse Comics, who is the actual publisher of this title, has seemingly set themselves up to lose with this miniseries, which concludes next issue. Too serious an approach would likely tread on ground already covered in "Afterlife With Archie," and too light a tone could easily make the notion of one of Hollywood's most brutal creations ripping apart beloved and timeless teenage icons seem crass and mean-spirited. All the while, there's seemingly no middle ground between these two disparate franchises, and the idea behind it sounds like the kind that would be executed only to honor the losing end of a bet. With the relaunch of the "new look" Archie only weeks away, the timing of this series seems odd, as it will conclude after this relaunch begins; a relaunch that could have provided a different look -- and better fit -- for this idea.

However, all creators involved are up to the challenge and have so far assembled a workable and enjoyable storyline whose successes are typified in this issue. Beyond the tattered clothing and the blood covering much of it as innocuously supplied by colorist Jason Millet (by his brushes, that is), the fear and bickering between the gang as they huddle up inside Riverdale High is faithfully evoked by de Campi. She deftly sets a mood not unlike that when the gang fears something far less grave, such as detention from Mr. Weatherbee. When the predator actually strikes, de Campi quickly embraces a far more threatening atmosphere, and Ruiz and Koslowski do the best they can to keep up, but the image of a decapitated Jughead stuffed into a vending machine is disturbing for all the wrong reasons.

Gisèle and María Victoria Robado's almost satiric cover is a clean and brilliant take on the classic image of Archie sharing a soda with his two favorite gals, except for the smiling predator sitting in Veronica's place. Anyone who knows anything about pop culture is unlikely to mistake this for a traditional Archie comic, but those who don't take Gisèle's polite cover image as a warning to the contrary and do make that mistake will find themselves horrified at the contents inside of this issue.

It's not all about blood and guts being smeared through the halls of Riverdale High School, though; de Campi takes the opportunity to remain faithful to the character of Archie in the best way possible: by demonstrating his heroism. While the extent of Archie's selflessness might typically be along the lines of giving his best friend his last dollar for a hamburger, de Campi seizes the nature of Archie's true character and exemplifies it here. Ruiz and Koslowski get to step up as well and, in typical Archie fashion, with a nicely rendered and brilliantly crazy Dilton Doiley scheme that truly does fit in with the typical "Archie" hilarity. It's almost a convincing attempt at a solution to the gang's predator problem, as least if one can just roll with the idea of dorky Dilton going up against a deadly alien killer in Riverdale.

"Archie vs. Predator" #3 is the kind of comic that shouldn't work but mostly does, despite readers having to alternate between shielding their eyes in some panels and rolling them in others.

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