Archie vs. Predator #2 and Red One #2

Archie vs. Predator #2 by Alex de Campi, Fernando Ruiz, Robert Hack, Stephen Downer, Rich Koslowski, Jason Millet, John Workman
Archie vs. Predator #2
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Fernando Ruiz, Robert Hack, Stephen Downer
Inker: Rich Koslowski
Colorist: Jason Millet
Letters: John Workman

Archie et al. created by Bob Montana
Sabrina created by George Gladir and Dan DeCarlo
Predator created by Jim Thomas, John Thomas, Stan Winston

This is the part where the comic actually delivers on its promise. The Predator follows the Archie gang back to Riverdale and quickly commences with his slaughter of the town. The hilarity of the resulting bloodbath reveals the stupid brilliance of conveying the tale within the confines of the Archie Comics house style. Both the action movie tropes of the Predator franchise and the comic stylings of the Riverdale cast offset each other nicely, lampshading the ludicrousness of their respective conventions. Once the guys realize what they're dealing with, they respond not by calling in the National Guard or any other agency equipped to handle the threat. Rather, the responsible adults pass out assault rifles to gung-ho teenagers so that they can finish off the unstoppable alien killing machine themselves. There's a lot of macho grandstanding that inevitably ends in disaster. But because of the humorous manner in which these deaths are portrayed, there's something deeply satisfying about how everyone meets their end. And the story is paced so effectively that the impact of each death is often quite startling when it actually takes place.

The only part where the narrative drags a bit is an exposition-heavy middle section that connects several plot threads, primarily the incidents within the Predator films with the events that took place last issue. This sets up Betty and Veronica as the comic's main protagonists rather than the titular Archie, who mostly stays in the background at least for now. As pointed out last time, these are slightly more abrasive versions of the cast who are more willing to engage in physical violence. If there's one glaring weakness, it's that some people are obviously beneficiaries of plot armour or heroic death exemption despite the dumb choices they make here. But that's not entirely unexpected given the nature of the crossover.

Red One #2 by Xavier Dorison, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, Clayton Cowles
Red One #2
Writer: Xavier Dorison
Pencils and Colors: Terry Dodson
Inks: Rachel Dodson
Letters: Clayton Cowles

What happens in this oversized issue is that Vera Yelnikov beats up a lot of bad guys while trying to fit into her new environment as well as settling into her new secret identity. The former is entertaining as heck, the latter is a little less so. The Dodsons staging of action sequences is slick, dynamic, and sensually charged when Vera displays her uncanny parkour and kung fu skills while attired in a form-fitting crimson jumpsuit and wielding nothing more than a hammer and sickle. Red One isn't exactly subtle. The hero's basically a liberated Soviet superwoman exacting revenge on behalf of the would-be victims against a group composed of violent, religious extremist, socially conservative, male chauvinist hicks, even if said victims are treated mostly as an afterthought. But the gorgeous visuals, which manage to compress a lot of narrative into every page, are clearly the comic's main draw.

Even the dialogue sounds less grating than in the last issue, mainly because Vera now has a verbal sparring partner in her American boss Lew Gardner. Admittedly, he's the stereotypical curmudgeon who's actually a big softie. And assuming he sticks around, it's only a matter of time before he uncovers the truth about Vera and becomes her reluctant ally. But Vera's mixture of flirtatiousness and fish out of water naïveté continues to awkwardly straddle the line between camp and social commentary. One scene has Vera and Lew attend a party which is meant to develop her credentials as a free spirit. But it doesn't really say anything new about the character, so it just comes across as gratuitous. Vera visits her first supermarket, and her amazed reaction to its bounty is too much of a well-worn cliche. Such behaviour stretches credulity that the stuffed shirts at the Kremlin are so much more hip than their Yankee counterparts that they can afford to send their most capable agent to save America from itself.

However, the biggest obstacle for readers of American comics will be the European album publishing schedule which favors lavish production values at the expense of a quick turnaround. The next installment won't be out till next spring, an awfully long time for an ongoing action story.