Monday, April 20, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 4/15

Archie Vs. Predator #1
Story: Alex de Campi
Art: Fernando Ruiz

Yes, you read that right: Archie and the kids from Riverdale are now the most dangerous game in Archie Vs. Predator, copublsihed by Dark Horse Comics and Archie Comics. After Jughead wins a contest in a bag of chips, the gang from Riverdale gets to go to the island resort of Los Perdidos on spring break. And while they're there, a ship arrives carrying movie's most legendary alien hunter: The Predator. It's a pretty simple set up, and most of the first issue is taken up by the gang's usual Archie-style adventure: Dilton has to finish layouts for the yearbook, and having not done any of the polls (most popular, most likely to succeed, etc). everyone agrees to help, despite there being only twenty or so kids there of the entire high school. Hey, this is the Archie world and we know only they matter. Cheryl Blossom and her twin brother, Jason, show up, and as the other local rich kids, decide to start instigating fights between Betty and Veronica, simply because Cheryl has it in for Veronica, thus interfering with the "Best Dressed" competition. Sounds about right for a high school hijinks Archie story. right? Well, that would be true if the Predator wasn't watching them in his creepy infrared vision. And if Veronica and Betty didn't get into a full on fight and Veronica broke Betty's nose. And if Betty didn't wander into an ancient temple the Blossoms were talking about looting and inadvertently take an obsidian looking dagger. And if the Predator didn't flay a couple kids. This, ladies and gents, is not Archie Meets Punisher, where the violence level was more akin to an Archie story; this is a Predator story with Archie and his pals & gals in it. As the issue ends, the kids head back to Riverdale with the Predator following.  Fernando Ruiz is one of the masters of the classic Archie house style, and while his Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, et. al. are all spot on, this doesn't mean his Predator looks light and goofy; it's as monstrous as you would expect, and that juxtaposition, of monsters and gore with classic Archie, is what really blows your mind reading this issue. It's fun, crazy, and not the least bit what you'd expect, and that's what makes it all the better. It also earns extra bonus points for a one page back-up strip of Sabrina the Teenage Witch meeting Hellboy, which is excellent, and has some great art from Robert Hack, who is the regular artist on...

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2
Story: Robert Aguirre-Sacasa
Art: Robert Hack

After a long delay, the second issue of the second Archie Horror title comes out, and it was worth the wait. The first issue of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina set-up Sabrina's status quo in this darker world, establishing her character, as well as those of her aunts, her familiar, Salem, and her friends and nemeses at school. This second issue focuses mostly on her actual enemy, Madam Satan. Madam Satan was the witch Sabrina's father abandoned in favor of Sabrina's mortal mother, and we spend this issue watching her as, recently freed from Gehenna, she cuts a swath through the world, starting her plans for revenge. She initially exacts revenge on Sabrina's parents, but finding that they have a daughter, she begins a deeper, darker game as she arrives at Sabrina's town and works her way into Sabrina's circle. The design on Madam Satan is really creepy, with skulls for eyes, kind of taking the Corinthian from Sandman design for the next level of horror. Robert Hack's style, with it's many lines and heavy shadows, along with the colors, give the book a feeling of a classic horror movie, something akin to Rosemary's Baby, with its creeping dread, so setting the story in 1966 feel appropriate. The time we spend with Sabrina in the issue deals with her trying out for the school play, and we get a great little scene where Sabrina meets with another witch, who just happens to be a famous movie star of the time, but I'll let you find out who that is one your own. After six months, it was a dicey proposition to have your protagonist relegated to being a supporting player in your second issue, but I felt like it worked. Letting the reader really see Madam Satan's motivation, and exactly what she can do, ratchets up the tension, and makes us more worried for Sabrina. I never thought I'd say that Archie was publishing some of the best horror comics on the market, but between this and Afterlife with Archie, that seems to be the case. I just hope it's less than six months before we see the next issue.

The Fox #1
Story: Dean Haspiel & Mark Waid
Art: Dean Haspiel

The Fox mini-series that came out under the brief Red Circle imprint from Archie a year and change ago, "Freak Magnet," was one of the strangest superhero comics I'd read in a long time, and intentionally so. The beginning of the new ongoing from the same creative team is no less strange. Paul Patton, the titular superhero who attracts weirdness to himself, is out on a job as a photojournalist, taking pictures of his home town, that is about to be flooded to make a watershed to help Impact City, where he and his family live. He and his son, Shinji, are taking pictures when a supervillain, Dream Demon, arrives, and Paul must reluctantly don his costume to try to stop her. Only it turns out Paul knows Dream Demon as his childhood sweetheart, Linda, who wants to stop the town from being flooded for nostalgic reasons. It's a very thoughtful story, with Paul's memories shown throughout, and he does his best to stop Linda without actually fighting her. As much as this is a superhero story, it's more a character piece, really letting the reader get into Paul's head and understand him, and setting up his family life, with Shinji and his wife, Mae. It's clear being a superhero isn't what Paul wants to do anymore, but he does it because it's the right thing to do. It's a really enjoyable first issue, and stands so differently from the other Dark Circle superhero title from Archie, Black Hood, that I'm impressed by how hard they're trying to do different things. Just because the line is called Dark Circle doesn't mean everything has to be doom and gloom; The Fox is a very entertaining and fun debut. The end of the issue sets off the "Fox Hunt" that is the title of the arc, and introduces new readers to local mob boss Mister Smile and a group of other supervillains, who have some great designs and a loopy personality or two amongst them. If you picked up "Freak Magnet" or enjoy your superheroes with a little touch of the surreal or with strong character behind the mask, you should definitely try out The Fox.

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