Dark Horse Comics

Archie vs Predator issue #3 review

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Script: Alex de Campi
Pencils: Fernando Ruiz
Inks: Rich Koslowski
Colours: Jason Millet

Cover: Gisele with Maria Victoria Robado

“More victims! More mutilations! MORE MILKSHAKES!”

Riverdale is doomed. Or it certainly seems like it will be in issue three of Dark Horse’s Archie vs Predator series.

Archie and his pals are still on the run from the elusive predator, and not too many of them left. Their plan to destroy the creature didn’t go as planned, leaving all of Riverdale’s best muscle scattered in the once-quaint streets. Issue #3 opens with Jughead rejoining the team, still dressed as the Veronica decoy. He has to deliver the bad news, which brings out some of the most Archie-esque banter of the series.

The group splits, not wanting to be around the certainly-doomed Veronica behind, leaving only the core group of characters left. Certainly they will all survive, right? Unfortunately, unlike last issue where it seemed uncertain who could survive, readers know no one will. What was shocking before felt a bit repetitive this time around. Being bored watching classic, beloved characters die probably wasn’t the goal.

The trip to the AV room goes pretty much as expected, minus one trick left up Dilton’s sleeve. But with the Predator fast approaching, someone needs to stand up as the ultimate hero of the series. Last review, Betty was the queen of taking control while Archie acted like a massive dolt. But de Campi brought the best out in him this issue, as he was finally becoming the hero he is often seen as in the original comics. This is called AvP for a reason.

The art is delightful as ever. The cover by Maria Victoria Robado and Gisele is so good. The delightful juxtaposition of an iconic Archie look with the horrific predator just about sums up the entire feel of the comic. Balancing the line between an all-out bloodfest and keeping the fun appeal of the characters has to be tough, but the creators have found a balance that has really led to a fun almost b-movie camp type of entertainment.

So far this series has been a lot of fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously because it really can’t – its so silly and sometimes brutally gruesome. It isn’t better than Afterlife with Archie, but it could never be. Thankfully it never tries to be. But there is plenty of action sure to come with next month’s issue. The fate of our heroes is not certain, but one thing is: the conclusion is sure to be one hell of a ride.

Archie vs Predator #4 is out July 15.

Archie vs Predator issue #2 review

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Archie vs Predator #2 of 4

Script: Alex de Campi
Pencils: Fernando Ruiz
Inks: Rich Koslowski
Colours: Jason Millet
Cover: Dan Parent with Jason Millet

The first issue of Archie vs Predator played like a regular Archie comic in many ways: the usual cast of characters, the silly plot device (a bag of chips) and the usual predator. Okay, so a looming alien hunter is probably a slightly unusual visitor to Riverdale. But while the first issue held suspense for blissfully unaware teens, this issue let’s all Hell break loose.

The kids think they are returning back to Riverdale and normalcy, but the predator is on their trail. All this mayhem and bad luck is mostly Betty’s fault, as she stole the jaguar knife and cursed half the ladies in her high school. She and Veronica seek out a familiar name for some magical assistance. Actually, this series should be Betty vs Predator because this girl is kicking ass and leading the entire plot. This seems very typical of de Campi’s work (which is always twisted and fun).

Everything about this issue is both brutal and balmy. This series continues on being the best of each, even during the major battle scene at the end. Just beware: do not to read while eating because things can get pretty grim here. But the deaths are pretty fun and entertaining. These awful killings are great juxtapositions compared to the pleasant lives they though they were returning to in Riverdale.

Despite this heightened level of gore and violence, this will probably still appeal more to Archie fans than Predator ones. The motive for the juvenile specimen, when it is revealed, is bound to be more silly than sinister. But for those who love both – Archie vs Predator is a massive success. This issue really amped up the action that is bound to be a nice set-up for the last two issues.

As a side note, there are so many great variant covers for this series, it’s so difficult to choose every time I’m in the shop – though I have tended to go with the Archie-looking ones because they’re utterly hilarious.

Archie vs Predator #3 is out June 17th.

Lady Killer issue #5 review

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Lady Killer issue #5 of 5

Story: Joëlle Jones & Jamie S. Rich
Art: Joëlle Jones
Colours: Laura Allred

It is the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962 and despite all the excitement in the city, hit-ladies Josie and Ruby have bigger, deadlier things on their minds. Last issue the two bonded with each other over a common cause: wanting out of their contracts with their lives. This is only obtainable if they take out their former colleague Peck and boss Mr Steinholm.

In their ultra-classy World’s Fair worker disguises (which are like a cross between Jackie Kennedy and Pam Air flight attendants), the two head out into the fair to take control of their fates. As suspected, it appears as though Mother Schuller knows more than she lets on when she recognises Josie’s mysterious accomplice Irving Reinhardt.

The final fight is pretty intense, and things really go awry when things don’t quite go as planned. Twice Josie is pulled away from a major kill to be directed elsewhere. Each time she puts utter trust into her cohorts despite her intuition causing her to pause. Josie leaves not entirely sure of the outcome of the battle, but when she’s caught covered in blood by Mother Schuller, she leaves to join her family. This scene is a symbol for what the entire series stood for. While Josie is good at what she does and generally enjoys it, there are people that count on her that she is willing to sacrifice and leave everything for. In mid-century America, that choice is a luxury not many women would have been allowed to make, but making that decision gives her all the more power.

As the last issue closes, it is clear that something more is waiting for Josie, but that’s for another time. Issue #5 was an incredible closing to the series. The art was as moving as always, Jones out did herself again. The dialogue was kept to a minimum to show off the intense fighting, and it worked all the better for it. The same probably has continued throughout the series, though, that it was almost too big of a story for such a short run. There were many characters that were worth exploring further that never really got developed, but thankfully there was always enough of Josie’s character to really keep things alive.

In Rich’s closing letter, he states that he will no longer be a part of the future of the series as he leaves to be a senior editor of Vertigo. But this does confirm there is in fact more in store for Josie. After the huge success of this book it is entirely unsurprising there is more coming from the utterly magnificent Jones. If the future is to carry on in the same spirit of this extremely enjoyable five issue run, there is so much to look forward to.

Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight Issues #5&6: Bride of Blood

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Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight issues #5 & 6 – Bride of Blood

Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Federica Manfredi
Colours: Dorotea Gizzi
Cover artists: Francesco Francavilla (5) & Dan Panosian (6)

The third story in the Doors Open at Midnight series is much different in tone and style of the first two. There is very little fun in any of these pages. Instead of campy gore and witty dialogue, “Bride of Blood” is gritty and almost painful to read.

“Bride of Blood” styles itself as a sort of rape and revenge comic styled after movies like I Spit on Your Grave (Day of the Woman) and Last House on the Left. Just like those films, this is hardly something to enjoy. But this comic puts its own distinct twist on the story: the victim/heroine is Branwyn, a girl who is seeking her revenge, but with sword and chainmail.

Issue 5 sets the story off in a tragic way. Branwyn is betrothed to the Lord Callyreath, who’s spine is weaker than his sword skills. As the wedding begins, the guests and family are slaughtered by the wild reavers. Branwyn is raped and her tongue is cut out, leaving her for dead. She spends her days grieving and recovering up to the burial for her brother. While many thinks she should be grieving, the girl has only revenge on her mind. She steals her late-brother’s armour and takes matters into her own hands.

The following issue switches to the perspective of Lord Callyreath. Readers learn of his terrible plans. All along he had orchestrated a plan to end the lives of Branwyn’s family in order to give himself total control over the lands in the north that she would inherit.

This part was quite interesting because the readers could grow to despise the Lord. But they could also enjoy the full amount of terror he goes through as Branwyn seeks her revenge. It would have been more fun to include more of her story and plot, but it still works to see her as some sort of ghostly figure.

To be completely frank, I don’t know if I would recommend this story as much as the first two. The artwork on the covers got me really excited to read these, but I found it really tough to read. I was never a huge fan of rape/revenge films because they are difficult to handle for me personally.

Out of the entire Grindhouse series, this is probably the weakest title. The story doesn’t always add up completely (like bringing a certain character who was totally dead in issue 5!). But the art is quite nice in these two issues, and the rest of the series has been quite fun so far that it would be a shame to give up without reading the final story, “Flesh Feast of Devil Doll.”

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Archie vs Predator issue #1

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Archie vs Predator Issue 1 of 4

Script: Alex de Campi
Pencils: Fernando Ruiz
Inks: Rich Kolsowski
Colours: Jason Millet

“Beach games… Party games…. The most dangerous game!”

There are many unlikely pairings that go well together: grilled cheese and jam, Archie and the Predator? Indeed.

Archie and his high school pals have been through a lot of make-overs in the past decade under the rule of Dark Horse. Readers have traveled the afterlife with Archie and even witnessed his death. But this journey may be a little different than the others. This time the group must evade the predator.

The first issues opens with the usual cast of characters gathered outside Riverdale High discussing their plans for spring break. Tubing and the outlet mall are so over done. But before anyone can say “camping” Jughead wins a luxury beach vacation, courtesy of Tayto-Chips.

The gang sets off together to Los Perdidos Resort. As soon as they land, Veronica begins to whine about being bored, clearly unaware of the title for the comic. That night everyone spots what they believe is a shooting star, but is actually an extraterrestrial hunter landing his spaceship. The kids are way too distracted by waffles and popularity fashion shows to realise that they are likely to be the next target for the teeth-face fiend.

Cheryl and Jason aren’t too far away as they are cruising on their own yacht (that cool and still no friends). They stay close enough to make sure they can stir up enough trouble.

And trouble they get.

Cheryl makes sure Betty wins the fashion show, ruining Veronica’s bet at being voted Best Dressed for the yearbook. A girl fight ensues, ending in move of Veronica’s fist to Betty’s nose. The blonde runs off in tears and a broken heart (over Archie. Again. Of course). She comes across a cave that was made to be a shrine for the jaguar goddess. Unknown to her, a dagger from the shrine gets stuck in her skirt.

The kids have enough and head back to Riverdale where they decide home is always the best place to be. But Veronica’s luggage is certainly a lot heavier on the trip home.

Archie vs Predator plays on several themes. In many ways, the comic evokes a sort of 80s slasher vibe. The audience catches a glimpse at the alien, but the teenagers continue on blissfully unaware of the danger lurking around them. Like the 1987 movie, the teens move around the jungle not knowing they are being stalked by an invisible alien with thermal imaging.

Alex di Campi (Grindhouse) once again captures the a distinct style with her writing. She keeps the dialogue silly and light while letting the art take on an increasingly tense mood. The dynamic between the characters is over-the-top silly. Everything from the fashion show to the wishing on a star/spaceship is so ridiculous, but if the Predator has anything to do with it, things won’t stay that happy for long.

There’s definitely a healthy string of ‘vs’ movies: Alien vs Predator and Freddy vs Jason being the prime examples. Archie vs Predator is different in a few ways. The films make a level playing field. In this comic, it seems a small chance that all the kids will make it out alive. This target seems almost laughably easy for the Predator.

The hunter has just arrived in Riverdale with Archie and his friends blissfully unaware. Can they keep their wits about and hormones under control to survive?

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Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight issues #3 & 4: Prison Ship Antares

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Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight Issues #2 & 3 – Prison Ship Antares

Script: Alex De Campi
Art: Simon Fraser
Colors: Simon Fraser & Victoria Lau
Cover art: Francesco Francavilla

Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight first brought alien bee-women to a suburban desert town, now in the second story, “Prison Ship Antares,” women prisoners are sent into space as explorers. The second story in the series is not connected to the first two issues, but it still oozes that shocking grindhouse style.

This particular entry evokes the style of 70s exploitation films like Women in Cages and The Big Doll House – but this story is in space. Alex De Campi has really made a strange creation this time ’round; it’s full of the same kind of colour characters that those movies were built on.

As in many of the “women in prison” films, the comic is filled with dire situations – and plenty of women who are ready to overcome them. De Campi proves her point that society would rather hide away its criminals than face the realities of society. So why not send prisoners off into space?

“Where could we find brave men willing to spend the rest of their lives traversing the cold vacuum of space? Men willing to leave behind bright futures on Earth for the tedium and danger of a cramped spaceship?” 

Some time in the distant future, the spacecraft Antares is headed to the nearest earth-like planet. It is nearly 20 years of travel away – not exactly a trip many would sign up their lives for. So the women prisoners of earth are sent out instead. Unfortunately for the girls, their warden is Kalinka. She’s a brutal bitch who is hellbent on ‘purifying’ the women aboard. And this little plan doesn’t include Bible study.

As the treatment begins to worsen on Antares, it’s up to the prisoners to set aside their differences and ban together to take command of their own lives. Fraser’s panels are fantastic. They’re full of power. During the climax of the story, he makes all the action count.

“Prison Ship” is probably stronger than “Bee Vixens” story wise. The big-budget idea is really fun. The writing is really quick-witted. Although the scenes can be a bit crass, it doesn’t linger too long to feel uncomfortable or forced. That being said, there isn’t any single character in either issue here who is cooler than Officer Garcia. Like “Bee Vixens,” though, this won’t be a story for everyone.

Lady Killer issue #4 review

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Lady Killer Issue #4

Story by: Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich
Art by: Joëlle Jones
Colours by: Laura Allred

Last time readers saw Josie, she was in a bit of a bind. Not hitting her last target finally put her in big trouble with the big boss – and the price is not just a slap on the wrist. More a ‘bullet in your head’ type. Josie and Peck are not particularly on friendly terms anymore. With a hit on her, Josie is on the run from her former coworker, and the resulting car chases are gripping.

This issue also introduces an important new character, Ruby. She’s as much of a sultry badass as Josie is. Without giving too much away, their new partnership promises to be a really great one. What is done really well in this issue, is the really interesting juxtaposition between the blatant mid-century misogyny and the pure strength of character of these two women. That’s what helps really push this comic to a different place. Jones and Rich give their message, but it never feels preachy – it only enhances the colour and story of each character.

The tone is certainly different than the previous three installments. It’s darker, more of a revenge plot, but it definitely hasn’t forgotten about the thrills. There was a bit less dialogue (and thus less quips, unfortunately) than usual, but this was definitely the most fun issue to look at. Jones’ artwork, as always, was a massive pleasure to enjoy. The action moves quickly and it’s difficult to turn the pages fast enough.

Next month’s issue #5 is the last, and it has definitely gone by way too fast. The story line was probably a bit too much to have in just five quick issues. Hopefully this won’t be the last anyone sees of Josie because this story has been a whole lot of fun. The concluding issue can’t come soon enough.