Indie Comics Spotlight: Archie VS Predator, Red One, Lady Rawhide/Lady Zorro

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Archie vs. Predator #1

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“Actually…we’re all going on a luxury beach vacation, courtesy of Tatyo-Chips!”

Riverdale has its fair share of popular characters. None of them take that popularity so seriously that they’d be willing to ruthlessly kill the others and display their bodies as trophies. That’s something for another character. And don’t think the fact that the Predator finding his way to Riverdale is a vacation. In Archie vs. Predator #1 from Dark Horse, it’s pretty clear he came to party in a much more violent way. The issue is written by Alex de Campi, penciled by Fernando Ruiz, inked by Rich Koslowski, colored by Jason Millet and lettered by John Workman.

America’s favorite teen meets the galaxy’s fiercest hunter! Archie and friends hit Costa Rica for Spring Break, where party games and beach games are soon replaced by the Most Dangerous Game. What mysterious attraction does the gang hold for the trophy-collecting Predator, and will the kids even realize they’re in danger before it claims them all?

Archie vs. Predator #1 is being billed as an extraordinarily unlikely crossover and with good reason; the two properties couldn’t be farther from each other. It’s a fact no lost on de Campi, who does a fantastic job of nailing the tones associated with both universes. On the one hand, Archie and the gang are given a classic Archie story, where the group vacations on a tropical island courtesy of a sweepstakes win. On the other hand, Predator is on the same island and doing what he does best: killing for trophies. de Campi blends the two worlds together flawlessly, offering a tone befitting of Archie when they’re the focus and a much darker tone when Predator makes an appearance. The plot is a perfect fit for both universes as well, as it ensures that the Predator doesn’t just encounter the gang once and then moves along.

Part of what appeals most about Archie vs. Predator #1 is the pencils by Ruiz that maintain a familiarity about them. The book looks predominantly like an Archie book, with renderings of the Predator done in a way that makes it feel possible for him to really show up in Riverdale. Much of that has to do with the fact that Ruiz has illustrated Archie for decades, so he’s a natural choice for blending the two completely disparate worlds together into one. He’s in fine form here as well, tapping into the newspaper strip feel and making Archie’s group the center of attention while at the same time reminding the reader that the Predator is lurking in the shadows. Koslowski’s inks are strong and clean, providing plenty of emphasis on characters and settings. Millet’s colors are sufficiently tropical and go a long way to belie the terror on the island with the kids.

Archie vs. Predator #1 doesn’t sound like it would work, but boy, does it work. The worlds blended together much more effortlessly than one would think, as simply inserting the Predator into the Riverdale setting is brilliantly simplistic. de Campi blends the right amount of joy and pain throughout the story, walking a fine line that injects a horror movie aspect to the story. The easily recognizable pencils by Ruiz convince the reader that this is an Archie book, yet there are panels where he’s not shy about reminding the reader that Predator is hanging around as well. Archie vs. Predator #1 is a lot of fun for a first issue in a completely unconventional crossover, loaded with a special, one-page side-story that could be a genius crossover in its own right.

Archie vs. Predator #1 is in stores March 25.

Red One #1

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“Tell me, Vera. What do you think of ‘Batman’?”

As two of the largest and most powerful countries in the world, it really behooves the two of them to get along. If they don’t, the world suffers. There’s still deep-seeded distrust between the two sides, much of which dates back to shortly after World War II. Russian spies in America makes for interesting entertainment, but few of them have ever been a superhero in America; that is, until Red One #1 from Image Comics came along. The issue is written by Xavier Dodson, illustrated by Terry Dodson, colored by Rachel Dodson and lettered by Clayton Cowles.

What happens when America’s greatest hero…is a Russian Spy? Soviet Agent Vera Yelnikov is sent to 1977 Los Angeles by the Kremlin to become an American Superhero and spread communist values in the land of Uncle Sam in a funky superhero romp straight out of a Tarantino film.

From the start it’s very clear what Red One #1 is going for: a somewhat unconventional superhero story surrounded by camp. Dodson provides a very fast-paced first issue that succeeds in establishing the premise behind the series in a Russian spy sent in as an American superhero. There are some rather amusing references to the two cultures as well sprinkled throughout that play off of each country’s stereotypes. Vera is characterized as supremely confident and capable of her mission, which is offered up with little secrecy to the reader. The wild card in the story is a character named Jacky Core, who seems to have her own agenda that strikes fear into Russia and will likely offer an interesting foil to Vera.

The linework in Red One #1 is exceptionally clean and defined, as Dodson handles all aspects of human physiology with relative ease. 1977 Los Angeles looks appropriate and maintains the aura that accompanies both the city and the time, with Dodson paying particular attention to ensuring the city itself and buildings within look real enough. Vera is illustrated largely with an abundance of curves and sex appeal; something even she capitalizes on to get her way. The empty gutters feel like the right choice for Red One #1 as well, contributing to a very clean look and finish. Rachel Dodson’s colors are bright and vibrant, effectively capturing the mood of the 1970s and providing a stark contrast against any panel Vera is in. 

Red One #1 is a very entertaining book that doesn’t skimp on the tongue in cheek approach. It’s not that the book is full of jokes, but Vera’s approach to her mission (and life in general) is pretty daft in some regards. Dodson personalizes her in a way that gets the reader hooked and doesn’t let go, as Vera lives life very fast. Terry and Rachel Dodson’s art is very clean and attractive, effectively offering a great look at an interesting place and time. Red One #1 is a pretty enjoyable book that doesn’t get bogged down in the politics behind the Cold War.

Red One #1 is in stores now.

Lady Rawhide/Lady Zorro #1

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“Seriously. Zorro’s a jerk.”

The legend of Zorro is one that features a hero whose reputation instills fear in the hearts of opponents. Even he needs a day or two off every now and then, which gives others a chance to step up and do good work. Lady Rawhide and Lady Zorro are two such ladies and they get a chance to team up in Lady Rawhide/Lady Zorro #1 from Dynamite Entertainment. The issue is written by Shannon Eric Denton, illustrated by Rey Villegas, colored by Morgan Hickman and lettered by Marshall Dillon.

Zorro is murdered! Who stands ready to emancipate all the girls of an entire village from the evil slavers who would prey upon them? Lady Zorro and Lady Rawhide — would sooner ride alone another than ride together, but that’s just what they’ll have to do to free all the missing girls from a fate worse than death.

Both Lady Rawhide and Lady Zorro are two characters more than capable of holding their own against whatever perils the old west may have in store for them. This is a trait that Denton certainly doesn’t shy away from, giving them plenty of opportunity to fight their way out of a few situations. What Denton does in Lady Rawhide/Lady Zorro #1 that feels really fresh is the means of pairing Lady Rawhide together with Lady Zorro. The two came together out of a plan surrounding the death of Zorro, only to end up realizing they’re actually a good team together and can do even more good teamed up. Denton’s presentation of the two is very strong and assertive, mixing in a little humor here and there.

Providing a dark look to the book is Villegas. His style is gritty, but not overly noir and really fits with the look of the two leading characters. Lady Rawhide and Lady Zorro boast strong appearances bolstered by a delicate approach in terms of facial expressions and features. Villegas empties the gutters for most of the book to give the book an older look to it, emphasizing the characters. The soldiers fighting against the two main characters are depicted as violent and vicious, which makes it more satisfying when they’re being dismembered by the two ladies. Hickman’s colors live in reds and browns, all of which effectively determine the setting and create a strong atmosphere. 

Lady Rawhide/Lady Zorro #1 is an interesting crossover featuring two characters familiar to many, even if they’re not completely well-known. Their personalities are strong and fiery, providing plenty of support for the case to be made that they can extract justice in an unjust world. Denton’s characterization of the two characters is one of strength and an ability to hold their own regardless of the situation. Villegas’ illustrations are fitting and handle the combat well without overtly over-sexualizing either of the two leading Ladies. Lady Rawhide/Lady Zorro #1 is an interesting union of two characters who want to use their fighting and intelligence for good.

Lady Rawhide/Lady Zorro #1 is in stores now.


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