Red Sonja and Vampirella are on the trail of a supernatural killer when they cross paths with the ultimate super sleuths: Betty and Veronica! Riverdale just keeps getting weirder.
This first issue is a real mixed bag. I mean, crossovers are always a little tricky, with the type of story contortions necessary to get certain characters together in the first place, so it doesn’t help that this issue completely glosses over the time travel that this story would call for.
There’s an offhanded line from Betty that mentions Sonja and Vampi being from another time, but no real idea of what that entails. It would maybe be easy to infer that this ties into the previous team-ups from Swords of Sorrow and the like, but both Red Sonja and Vampirella have had their series and continuities rebooted at least once per character since that mini. The result is a story that is commendable for jumping right to the team-up, but frustrating for a fan who is trying to figure out how it’s possible in the first place.
A couple of lines of dialogue reference the wider mythology of Vampirella and Sonja, which are welcome. It helps that writer Amy Chu is more than familiar with Sonja, resulting in her character beats being the most fun, but the issue as a whole keeps looping back around to the big question of, “Just who is this comic for?” For the most part, many of the characters don’t exactly act like themselves in any meaningful way. This Betty and Veronica could honestly be swapped out with any other “plucky teenager” types without missing a beat.
There are a few moments that do stand out as feeling true to character. Betty’s breaking of the fourth wall (where she lets the readers know that she knows Archie isn’t the star of the story, for once) was cute and made me long for more moments like that. Likewise, I greatly enjoyed Red Sonja joining the football team and proceeding to wreck everyone. It perfectly fit Sonja’s usual attitude of doing everything the men can do, but better and in chainmail. I’m hoping for more of this as the miniseries goes on, because it felt like no one was really behaving normally, even by the standards of a supernatural Archie Comics crossover.
That actually brings me to another aspect I quite liked about this issue: Betty and Veronica just kind of roll with the idea that they’ve just met two vampire-hunting time-travelers. I love the idea of Riverdale being just a weirdness magnet, so it’s easier for the kids at the Riverdale High to adjust to the craziness around them. A barbarian wants to join the football team? Why not? One of the new girls has fangs? No worries; Jughead wears a crown all the time. It’s a weird world.
Continuing with the good: the artwork from Maria Sanupo is gorgeous. The moody lighting in the nighttime scenes make even the Archie gang look like they belong in a Vampirella story, while the bright sunshine of sequences like the football tryouts make the action really pop.
Ultimately, there are aspects to this issue that will appeal to fans of the characters (myself included). There’s just not much to hold onto this early in the miniseries. Hopefully things will get more fun when the gang track down the bad guys, but for right now, this was a fairly by-the-numbers and underwhelming start to this story.