Something’s up with the adults of Riverdale. It’s up to Batman, Robin, and Batgirl to save the day, but they’re going to need the help of Archie and the gang to do it!
The very concept of this miniseries is a kitschy match made in heaven. Luckily, writers Jeff Parker and Michael Moreci dive headfirst into the wacky nostalgia inherent in the premise, delivering a story that not only feels like a worthy successor to Parker’s fantastic Batman ’66 series, but one that fits in with the usual hijinks of Archie and company.
The artwork team of Dan Parent, J. Bone, and Kelly Fitzpatrick deftly combine the visual style of classic Archie comics with the character designs and actors’ mannerisms from the 1960s Batman series. Frank Gorshin’s Riddler is particularly well-realized, with his trademark sinister glee hiding behind the soft features and baby blue eyes of his “Archie-fied” design. The period setting also lends itself to some fun architecture and clothing choices for the characters.
On the downside, the broad range of fashions leads to a couple of continuity errors, such as one sequence early on when Veronica seems to change no less than outfits three times in one day. This could be intentional, though, as Ms. Lodge has a habit of dressing for success in different situations.
Still, there’s so much to enjoy about how this mash-up is used to its fullest potential. I love that there are no real criminals in Riverdale, so the United Underworld’s recruitment drive more or less begins and ends with Reggie Mantle, who’s just the only person they’ve seen be kind of a jerk (and who takes to being a Nehru jacket-wearing villain hilariously fast). It’s such a fun specific that reinforces the innocence of Riverdale in ways that other crossovers (like Archie vs. Predator and Archie Meets the Punisher) tend to push to the side for story purposes. There are two different types of optimism in play with these two franchises, and they somehow combine perfectly.
The action sequences are fun and slapsticky, another fine example of the two properties working well together. Even when Archie and the gang join the fight, they’re not instantly portrayed as seasoned crimefighters. They just have the moxy to stand up to the villains and make as big of a mess as they can. Also, as a longtime fan of Archie comics, seeing the Riverdale gang in their Super Teens outfits was a blast. To Parker’s credit, I somehow didn’t see it coming until the page where they were revealed in full costume. It was the perfect detail to throw into the finale of the miniseries.
There are a few little quibbles I have with the story, mostly with events that seem to be skimmed over or shortened. One example would be during Batman’s chase with Bookworm’s moll, Footnote. He chases her into a building and then the scene shifts to Riverdale. When we return to Batman, he’s fought his way through a labyrinth and several of Bookworm’s traps. This is likely done to show how quickly Batman can overcome obstacles, but it would have been nice to see more of that battle. Then again, the Adam West series pulled narrative tricks like this all the time, so it still kind of feels okay.
Overall, this is the best possible Archie/Batman crossover. It embraces all of the wide-eyed optimism from both series and cleverly combines the teen comedy of Archie and the straight-faced parody of Batman ’66 into something wholly unique.