Vampironica #3

Writers: Greg Smallwood, Meg Smallwood
Artist: Greg Smallwood
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Publisher: Archie Comics

Review by Cameron Kieffer

One of my favorite aspects of Archie’s horror line is how easily accessible each new series is.  If you are at all familiar with the Riverdale crew, then no set-up is necessary. You already know and are likely invested in the characters.  This is what makes books like Afterlife with Archie or Jughead The Hunger work so well!  It’s both fun and exciting to see beloved characters in intense and often terrible situations that you never would have expected twenty years ago.

Vampironica is the latest in a series of standalone stories that explores a darker, twisted version of Riverdale in which (surprise!) vampires exist.  This latest issue finds our heroine Vampi-I mean, Veronica, on a mission to end the vampire menace once and for all.  With the help of Riverdale High’s resident genius Dilton, Veronica returns home to find and vanquish her sire, the mysterious vampire who turned her and killed her parents.  Of course, things don’t exactly go according to plan, with the unexpected arrival of Ronnie’s would-be boy-toy Archie and the reveal that (SPOILER!) Mr. and Mrs. Lodge are not quite as dead as we once thought.

This series has been a lot of fun since the first issue, striking a perfect balance of dark comedy and lighthearted horror.  If you enjoy the bloody, gut-churning mayhem of books like Afterlife with Archie or Archie VS Predator, this book may seem tame in comparison, but that’s not a slight against it.  On the contrary, Vampironica #3 has more in common with Buffy the Vampire Slayer with its deft humor and faithful characterizations of the teen characters.  Veronica’s sire, and our main villain Ivan, even bears a striking resemblance to a certain platinum-blond vamp from that series.  The book also eschews the usual blood and guts fare for shadows and darkness, which keeps the tone of the book suspenseful without getting overly gory.

Writers Greg and Meg Smallwood have taken what could have been a silly-named one-shot into a series that is truly engaging.  They write Veronica in a way that makes her seem both familiar and new, allowing her to maintain her personality and sense of self, while delving deeper into the occult and the vampiric instincts she’s managed to keep at bay (so far).  They’ve also provided a great foil for her in Dilton Dooley, who ends up showing a heroic side we don’t often see.  The dialogue is perfectly suited to each of the characters and wouldn’t seem out of place in either the classic or current Archie books.

The artwork, also by Greg, is pitch-perfect.  It looks like a classic horror comic, with the mostly flat colors, and the great  use of shadows.  The line-work is also spectacular, appearing light and sketchy, almost as if it’s completely penciled, no inks.  It’s a cool technique that doesn’t always work but certainly does here.  Each character’s expressions range from thoughtful to intense, and manage to stay consistent throughout.  More than once I could have sworn Veronica was replaced by a photograph of Phoebe Cates (kids, feel free to Google Gremlins or Drop Dead Fred).

The Verdict: Buy it.

At this point, there are nearly as many horror stories in the Archie-verse as there are traditional series but Vampironica stands out as a perfect blend of modern humor and horror, without totally compromising the innocence of the characters.  Fans of Betty & Veronica or The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will find plenty to like here.

Cameron Kieffer
Cameron Kieffer wears many hats. He is a freelance writer and artist, creator of the webcomic "Geek Theory" and is co-host of the Nerd Dump podcast. He lives in Topeka with his wife and increasingly growing comic book collection.

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