Anyone who knows me knows that I have become a HUGE fan of what Archie Horror has done with their, er, Archie Horror series. And this is coming from someone who could care less about the regular line of Archie comics...
...I’d rather have my toenails pulled off by a cackling Zelda from the original Pet Sematary than watch ten minutes of Riverdale. But man oh man, do the people at Archie Horror get horror fans. And I’m sitting here happy to say that their newest series, Vampironica, is no exception.
Written by Greg Smallwood (Moonknight) and Meg Smallwood, Vampironica #2 picks up just moments after the first issue, where we left Veronica Lodge with her family slaughtered by a vampire who had just bitten her. Confused and scared, she hides out at school, where she runs into class nerd Dilton, who, with his incredible power of deduction, determines that Veronica’s glowing red eyes, fangs, and sensitivity to light means that she is becoming a vampire! To Veronica’s detriment, she realizes she must pair up with Dilton if she has any chance of becoming human again. Unfortunately for her and the rest of the town, she’s not the only one who’s been turned….
This is what I love about the Archie Horror line: the characters. Whether you’re a fan of the original Archie or not, the series has been around for so long that each of these characters is well established in who they are, which (I assume), makes it much easier for the writers to lay out which of them best fits each storyline. In this case, Veronica is the perfect vampire heroine. She’s sly, sarcastic, hot headed yet a bit fragile, sexy….she’s basically Buffy if Buffy were an asshole. So pairing her with shy Dilton oozes perfection. In just a few pages I’m immediately connected to the dynamic which the Smallwood’s have built here, because what we get is a fun back and forth that isn’t quite what you’d expect. Even though Veronica can be a bit, lets say feisty, she’s actually very sweet to Dilton, who I worry for. The nerdy guy who knows everything about vampires doesn’t always last in these stories.
I know what you’re thinking, who cares about Dilton? What about the horror? Fear not, dear reader, because the horror is actually what ALL of the Archie Horror comics do well. Vampironica #2 may have its focus on the relationship between Veronica and Dilton, but there is still plenty of chilling terror to whet any horror fan’s appetite. One moment in particular involves a nightmare of Veronica’s in which she finds herself becoming a vampire. The art by Greg Smallwood in this moment is so unnerving that I can practically hear the bones popping and limbs stretching as Veronica transforms. Choosing to set the scene against an all white backdrop only serves to heighten the terror, as there is something so unnatural about it that it almost feels like sitting in a sterile hospital room, waiting to hear what you expect will be some terrible news. Not to mention the design of the vampire itself, with its webbed fingers, ancient facial structure yet young and utterly human eyes, is unique in a vampire genre that has become so oversaturated that we have writers making them sparkle in the sunlight like goddamned diamonds just to “stand out” (thanks Stephenie Meyer).
I’m going to be honest with you, hardcore vampire fans, outside of the fact that this story takes place in the world of Archie, you won’t necessarily find much new here. Vampironica #2 is chock full of vampire clichés you’ve heard a thousand times before: Master vampires, the origins of Vlad Dracula, weaknesses to holy water, garlic, etc. Speaking of Buffy, there are even a few nods towards the end of this issue that have a pretty heavy Buffy the Vampire Slayer direction (the movie, not the show), where I’m pretty confident this is going to go a certain way. That’s okay though, because Vampironica #2 isn’t about reinventing the vampire wheel. Its about FUN. So if a fun yet somewhat creepy vampire comic is what you’re looking to sink your teeth into (clever, I know), you’d be hard pressed to find anything better than Vampironica #2.
By Matt Konopka