The “Sharknado” franchise has cleverly made itself a success by setting the critical bar so low it’s almost impossible not to exceed expectations. With tongue firmly planted in cheek and a stubborn so-bad-it’s-good mindset, this “Archie vs. Sharknado” one-shot follows the same ridiculous, over-the-top mantra that has given the SyFy Channel movies that kind of addictive absurdity. Written by “Sharknado” screenwriter Anthony C. Ferrante and illustrated by regular “Archie” artists Dan Parent and Rich Koslowski, this comic is a strangely enjoyable amalgamation of a traditional comic book icon and a loopy small-screen convergence of nature. The movies’ favorable reviews haven’t been issued because of any award-winning storylines, and “Archie vs. Sharknado” is no different; however, just because it isn’t literary brilliance doesn’t mean it isn’t a lot of mindless fun.
Parent and Koslowski’s parodic cover borders on brilliance, though, with a chainsaw-armed Archie doing his best Ian Ziering pose atop a pile of slain sharks. Lest any readers somehow expect literary brilliance after that, Ferrante dashes that expectation as soon as the first page in the form of Washington D.C. protestors brandishing signs with outrageous statements like “sharks are sacred” and “storms have feelings too.” Ferrante doesn’t explain exactly what the protest is about but, with signs like that, any explanation would probably only seem more outrageous. Coupled with a very suspicious and familiar looking storm literally on the horizon and Betty and Veronica taking sides regarding their opinions about sharks, Ferrante tells readers to leave their critical expectations behind and enjoy this comic the way they would watch one of the movies.
It’s a good thing, too, because otherwise readers might be stumbling over small lapses like sharks swimming around in the Potomac River. It’s not a coincidence that at least part of the issue occurs in the nation’s capital, as Ferrante has apparently structured his story to concurrently take place with the newly-aired “Sharknado 3: Oh, Hell No!” on SyFy, making for a multimedia premiere of sorts. Despite the recent launch of the “new look” Archie, the publisher wisely enlists Parent and Koslowski to deliver the more familiar look, which is ideally suited to the story’s absurd nature; Archie’s done a lot of things over the years crazier than fending off sharks with a chainsaw — or, at least, equally as crazy — and the artists’ usage of this style makes this crossover seems right at home in the Archieverse.
Even when beloved familiar characters are getting their limbs bitten off or their torsos chomped in half, the campy, B-movie flavor of the story gives all of the dismemberment and destruction more of a humorous feel than a horrific one; never has the dome of the destroyed Capitol Building blowing by ever looked funny, but it does here. There’s no kind of emotional attachment to be had; it’s fun to see sharks endure all manner of demises, and it’s admittedly kind of fun to see the same happen to some of the characters, too. Whenever there’s the smallest inclination to take the story too seriously, Ferrante throws an absolute groaner of a line into the script to pull the overly intellectual part of the audience back in.
There has been no shortage of Archie crossovers in recent years to help pump up that franchise and, while this one easily could have been the one to ironically jump the shark, it instead embraces the campiness of the idea and is actually well-suited for it. “Archie vs. Sharknado” does a terrific job of taking the ingredients of a bad story and making it into something entertaining.