Open Mike Night - The Punisher Meets Archie & Archie Vs Predator

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By Mike Weaver and Mike Maillaro


The Punisher Meets Archie

Written by: Batton Lash
Art by:  John Buscema and Stan Goldberg
Published by: Archie and Marvel

Maillaro: We usually review our “new” comic first and the “classic” story second, but I am flipping the script on that for reasons I will explain when I talk about Archie Vs Predator.  

Weaver: The first thing I want to talk to you about the “crossover you’ve been dreading” is that it’s written by Batton Lash, a man that I know from his work on the independent comic Wolf & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre.  That comic was full of puns and genre in-jokes, and I saw a bit of that out of the gates here, but it seemed to taper off once the comic hit its stride.  I’m not sure if setting that aside was a good thing or not, because as it progressed, it felt less “Batton Lash” and more focused on what it actually was. Yet without Batton Lash, this comic likely would never exist.  He took a really ridiculous situation and made it into something both funny and engaging.

Our set-up is a case of mistaken identity, where the Punisher is pursuing a criminal that he has conveniently agreed not to kill (assumedly for some federal leniency for his other activities, but that’s not vitally important here).  He tracks the criminal to Riverdale, and of course said criminal looks almost exactly like Archie Andrews, with the exception of having buck teeth.  Like any crossover, we have the “misunderstanding” fight leading into cooperation.  One thing stood out to me throughout the issue, though: the Punisher sees Riverdale as the iconic slice of “America as it should be” that it was always presented as in comics, and that reveals a lot about the pain that is at the core of his character.  I was really surprised that such a silly comic could get serious like that.

Maillaro: What I loved most about this comic is there is a sense through the entire comic “this should not exist, but dammit we’re going to do the best possible comic we can have.”  It is ridiculous...and the creative team is well aware of that.  BUT, at the same time, there is a ton of heart there.   And they somehow manage to keep the story something that makes sense for both sets of characters.   Archie manages to slapstick, Punisher manages to be bad ass...and they blend together so well.  

Did you happen to read the introduction for the book, where they say what the original plan for this book was?  

Weaver: Yes.  It started out as a joke, and then when presented to Batton Lash, I assume as more or less an afterthought, he said, “I think I can do it.  Let me give it a try.”

It’s amazing how well the slapstick and bad ass do blend together.  I like towards the end that they have Archie having his own “war journal” which presented things in a Punisher format through the eyes of Archie.  It was hilarious.

Maillaro: I loved Archie’s War Journal, though I did think they dragged the joke on too long when they later did Betty’s War Journal too.

Weaver: Another thing that was really neat here is that they used essentially every Archie character ever...including a cameo by Josie and the Pussycats...and yet it didn’t feel overcrowded, and everyone got a moment or two to do what they do.  They also included some of Marvel’s old “Archie style” comic characters in a crowd scene, namely Patsy Walker, Hedy Wolfe, and Millie the Model, plus somebody who seemed to be a Millie associated character that I didn’t recognize, as Millie was a little before my time. That was a great shout out.

Maillaro: Yeah, that was pretty clever.  I also loved the implication that Sabrina knew Doctor Strange.  The little details are a huge part of what made this comic so much fun.  I did feel bad for Ms Grundy though.  She really seemed to have found a soulmate in the Punisher...who reluctantly left here to go deal with crime in Gotham City...while wearing a Riverdale sweater.  

Weaver: Punisher’s Riverdale sweater was the best.  Actually, besides dragging the War Journal joke out a little too far, there’s very few things to complain about here.  You can tell the creative team has a good knowledge of and respect for both groups of characters, and by the end, you feel that Archie and Punisher aren’t quite as completely different as you would think going in.  In some ways, Frank wants to be Archie, and that makes complete sense.  As nonsensical as it seems as an out of context sentence.

Batton Lash had a tough task here, and I think he nailed it.  We can pick a few things apart, but the hit to miss ratio is very much on the hit side, with all the little details, as you said, making it a lot of fun.  I’m giving the story a 5.  I’d give it higher, but 5 is all we got.  The art, I’m going to give it a 3.5.  The Punisher characters and Archie characters were done by separate artists, and it didn’t always mesh well, although both were done well individually.

Maillaro: The art reminded me of Groo Vs Conan.  I agree with you the two different art styles didn’t always mesh well.   But it was never bad art, so I will match your 3.5.   I did like the story quite a bit, but I am not quite giving it a perfect five.  A 4.5 is fair to me.  I enjoyed it, but there was definitely a lot of little things that bugged me, like dialogue that was trying to be too clever and fell a little flat.  It didn’t ruin the comic, but it was noticeable.


Archie Vs Predator #1
Written by: Alex DeCampi
Art by:  Fernando Ruiz and Rich Koslowski
Colored by: Jason Millet
Lettered by: John Workman

Published by: Dark Horse
Cover Price: $3.99

Maillaro:  There was one thing that jumped out at me immediately, and it really stood out because I read this comic right after reading Archie Meets Punisher.   Like Afterlife with Archie, instead of keeping the characters as close to the Riverdale characters we already know, this comic had no problem just flushing the format. Instead, so many of the characters here just felt like generic characters being used for a horror movie.  I actually loved that in Afterlife with Archie, but it really bugged me when I was reading this comic.  I suspect it was because I read this comic right after Archie Meets Punisher, which went out of its way to keep the characters close to the originals.

I was also surprised that they killed off Cherry Blossom and her creepy brother so brutally.  Again, I was reminded of Afterlife with Archie...those characters were done completely unlikeable here, feeling like they were just remolded to fit a horror movie archetype.  If this was just a stand alone Predator comic (which I probably never would have bought), this would have been fine.  But since they used the iconic Archie characters, I just felt like something was missing here.  A basic love and understanding of the characters.

Weaver: I felt very similarly to this.  There were several times early on that I felt the Archie characters had uncharacteristically risque dialogue, especially in regards to trying to organize the best dressed contest.  Yeah, Reggie is usually an arrogant jerk, but he came across as much more raunchy here than I’d ever seen any Archie character behave, including in Afterlife with Archie.  In Afterlife, you still saw the normal characters we all know and love transformed by extreme circumstances.  In this comic, they really could, as you say, be functionally switched with generic characters.  Is there some semblance to their Archie selves?  Yes, especially the opening sequence before they go to the island.  But it’s not enough.  And they don’t play this for laughs at all, which is a huge failing.

Maillaro: I have read a lot of violent comics in my life...but I don’t think any of them bothered me as much as Veronica busting Betty’s face open and her nose bleeding all over the place.  There is just something sort of “sacred” about Archie to me, that I didn’t even realize until I read this book.  Like you said, there are ways to modernize them and even change the entire format (like Afterlife with Archie), but you have to walk a real fine line, and I think this comic failed at that entirely.

One that stood out for me as a positive is the art.  In both books, they basically stuck to the classic Archie art, or at least a close semblance of it. It basically worked for both books.  You just don’t mess with the classics, I guess.  

Weaver: It was Reggie saying “Best dressed means least dressed” that got me in the same way that Veronica busting Betty’s nose got to you, and again, I’ve read plenty of sexual innuendo comics and books, and that sort of thing doesn’t typically bother me, but yeah, there is this certain “sacredness” about the characters that you just don’t want certain lines crossed without good storyline reason.  Here, those lines are crossed before there really is a story.

The art was a huge positive.  It looked like Archie.  It just didn’t read like Archie, at all.

I felt that this issue was criminally decompressed, too.  With Archie Meets Punisher, they had a story to tell, they had an issue to do it in, it was done, it went to press, and that’s all.  It’s a very impulse buy kind of comic, and no one is going to come get it month after month.  They see it, they buy it, it’s over.  Here, they try to get you to pick up a whole miniseries of this.  I think there was a right way to tell this story, and that’s to pack it into an issue (even if it’s an oversized issue), and there’s a wrong way.  They went with the wrong way, in pretty much every way.  Except the art.

Maillaro: Yeah, I was really let down by this comic.  I had been real hyped by it, especially because of how much I like Afterlife with Archie.   Going into this column I expected to love one of the books and hate the other one...it just turned out I had the wrong books in mind.  It’s real hard to separate the two for me.  When you read Archie Meets Punisher, you realize everything that went wrong with Archie Vs Predator.  

Scores - 2 for the writing.  4 for the art.

Weaver: Those are fair scores, I’d agree.  I did have a slight advantage over you in that I was aware that Archie Meets Punisher was fantastic, but if you gave me these two comic titles in a vacuum, I’d have thought Predator would be the better one too.  Archie Meets Punisher took this ridiculous situation and made it work for every character involved, including having the silly “The villain is wearing a wig” moment at the end, reminiscent of slapstick Archie and everything else that’s unmistakably Silver Age.  Archie Vs. Predator took a ridiculous situation and didn’t make it work for anybody, including the Predator (who we barely saw).

Maillaro: Yeah, the Predator definitely is going to have to be shoehorned into this story...pretty much “he saw Betty and Veronica’s brief cat fight” and that made him obsessed with following our heroes back to Riverdale to measure their battle prowess?  

Actually, that is another big problem here….Why would he have killed Cherry Blossom and her brother?  Predators aren’t typically murderers for no reason, they are honorable fighters looking for a challenge.  Their ways are brutal and different from our own...but they are still mostly honorable.  That is why Predator Vs Batman makes sense, and if you play with it like they did with Archie vs Punisher, you could have made this story work.  Instead, it just felt like a cheap cash grab.


Maillaro: I have a no-brainer pick for next week.  Uncle Scrooge #1.  I am so excited that IDW is doing Disney comics.  Scrooge McDuck is by far my favorite Disney character, and I love his comic adventures. A few years ago, Scrooge had pretty close to 5000 appearances in comics, putting him damn close to Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, etc.

Weaver: Scrooge McDuck it is.  I’m going to need to research a bit to find out what the classic pick will be, nothing comes immediately to mind.

Maillaro: I would probably recommend against doing a classic Scrooge book, just because they are a real pain in the ass to find.  And this issue is a reprint of an old Scrooge comic anyway.  It’s not thematic, but we could do Runaways or Masks?  There is no rule that says we always have to stick to a theme.

Weaver: I’ve wanted to read Runaways for a long time.  We’ll do that.

Maillaro: Perfect!  And to the reader, the Open Mike Night team will be covering Convergence week 2 this weekend.  Hope to see you there!

Final Scores

 

Maillaro – Story

Weaver – Story

Maillaro – Art

Weaver – Art

Archie Vs Predator #1

2

2

4

4

The Punisher Meets Archie

4.5

5

3.5

3.5