Written by: Alex de Campi
Art by: Fernando Ruiz
I’ll begin by saying it’s a regret of mine I wasn’t able to review issue #3 because I lost internet that week, but for those of you following along at home: Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and Dilton sought sanctuary within the walls of Riverdale High after their friends continued to be murdered gruesomely — and after Nancy, Ginger, and Ethel very wisely skip town to avoid the same fate — but once again found themselves hunted. Jughead breaks the cardinal horror rule by wandering off alone and pays with his life, while Dilton is taken down fighting in a lovingly crafted Archie robot mech-suit.
Two pages in we’re already reminded of one thing that separates Archie Vs. Predator from the titles within the Archie Horror imprint, which is that the gore is right there front and center, but the emotional beats that follow stop it from feeling overly gratuitous. Fernando Ruiz’s expressions, as always, tell entire stories within each panel, and coupled with Alex de Campi’s script, the characters’s reactions continue to feel natural and very real; appropriate for the situation and the characters in a way that keeps the story moving without glossing over their trauma.
Even better, there are a lot of wonderful subtleties between Veronica and Betty’s differing personalities that de Campi explores that to me were the highlight of the issue, if not the entire mini-series. Though often depicted as very firmly self-centered and shallow, here we get to see Veronica at her most pragmatic; she is ruthless and unapologetic about survival, which contrasts — but is also complimented by — Betty’s more doubt-ridden, shell-shocked approach to their situation. And who can blame either of them? But not unlike the legendary mothers who can lift cars in a crisis, Betty comes alive when Archie is in danger. (Well, a little unlike.) Betty is far too often expected to be a paragon of logic, so in a story like this especially it’s fun to see her more hysterical, irrational side come back out alongside Veronica’s indifferent-but-not-actually cunning. Regardless of what’s driving them, both girls attack and subdue the Predator simultaneously despite their own deep wounds and remind us as readers how perfectly the two girls balance each other — at their best as a team, even accidentally, and not in competition.
Like I said, what I love about this issue is all of this: the attention and focus it pays to Betty and Veronica being the heroes. Archie Vs. Predator is not without its self-aware horror references or tropes, but even better than seeing those paid tribute is seeing how they’re subverted. I don’t believe anyone really knew what to expect from this mini-series, let alone how it might conclude, and even when I got to the last page I stared at it for a while before I could figure out how to react: definitely an oh my god moment that’s stunning, horrifying, and somehow also hilarious. Considering how much I was looking forward to this mini-series when it was first announced, I don’t think it could have had a better ending — as a finale this issue is solid from start to finish, de Campi and Ruiz do a wonderful job showcasing what makes Betty and Veronica the real heroes of Riverdale.