Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Archie Vs. Predator was one of the most delightful surprises of 2015, unleashing the alien killer in the cartoon world of classic Riverdale. A bloodbath ensued, but writer Alex De Campi and artist Fernando Ruiz made the book more than a hyper-violent joke by positioning Predator as an Archie replacement caught in the classic Betty and Veronica love triangle. That first miniseries ended with Predator in a new Archie body after killing the original, leaving the door open for a sequel that comes four years later in Archie Vs. Predator II, teaming De Campi with one of the main artists behind Archie Comics’ revitalization over the past decade: The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina’s Robert Hack.

This sequel, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick with letters by Jack Morelli, goes in a much stranger direction as it comments on the publisher’s drastic transformation in the 2010s. The first issue has Betty, Veronica, and Archie-Predator roaming through a desolate world that functions like a nexus of realities for all of the different interpretations of Archie IP, eventually leading the trio into the realm of the Archie relaunch shepherded by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples in 2016. There are now two sets of Archies, Betties, and Veronicas, and De Campi uses this scenario to compare and contrast the absurdly over-the-top old school of Archie Comics with the more grounded take on teen dynamics that has become the norm.

Of course, nothing about Archie Vs. Predator is grounded, and once the refugees from another reality appear, the new Riverdale becomes ground zero for an alien attack. The homecoming dance is where everything goes to shit, and this sequence highlights how well this creative team juggles action, horror, and comedy. The carnage plays very differently in the sequel thanks to Hack’s artwork, which heightens the terror with more realistic rendering. Hack adjusts the thickness of his linework and his shading to evoke the look of Fiona Staples, and Fitzpatrick adds a dreamy quality to the art with pastel palettes and bokeh light effects. DeCampi and Morelli do exceptional work with emoji dialogue for Archie-Predator, which separates him from the human characters while also connecting him to the cartoon universe of the previous series.

DeCampi essentially treats this book as fanfic, with issue #3 throwing in a reference to her “Hell’s Kitchen Movie Club” comic strips about the Punisher and Winter Soldier getting together to watch movies. The final chapter of this issue is titled “DON’T WORRY; NONE OF THIS IS IN CONTINUITY,” which has De Campi doing preemptive damage control for the massive cliffhanger that has old-school Betty and Veronica realizing that they’ve been fighting for each other’s affections this entire time. The problem is the last panel. The preceding panels set up a kiss on the lips, but at the final moment, Betty gives Veronica a kiss on the forehead instead. It’s a tender act that still resonates emotionally, but it feels like a last-minute cop-out that continues to reinforce friendship rather than a romantic connection. In an explicitly out-of-continuity story, it’s fine for characters to be brutally slaughtered, but god forbid two women kiss.

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