Archie vs. Sharknado Review:
Jughead bites back
Though Archie vs. Sharknado‘s first issue is labeled as a #1, it’s actually more like a one-shot done by Sharknado‘s writer Anthony C. Ferrante with Dan Parent; released concurrently with Sharknado 3 and tying in with the film’s plot, it’s a comic that is very much a play off of the popularity of SyFy’s ridiculous line of movies instead of a series that hopes to become a regular player in the Archie Horror line-up. But that’s to be appreciated, especially with the depreciating values of the Sharknado franchise – there’s no need for an Archie comic to stick around attempting to craft new plot arcs out of an idea that is bound to fizzle out, and so Ferrante gets right to the point in this 48-page tie-in and then gets out quickly.
The first noticeable quality about Archie vs. Sharknado is that it’s just as tongue-in-cheek as its film series, and that’s thanks to Ferrante’s brand of writing. It’s great to see Dan Parent helping out with the issue, though, because both of them together bring a lot more to the Archie universe. Parent’s knowledge of Archie characters allows him to infuse Archie vs. Sharknado with references to the series, whether it be secondary characters like Dilton, Moose, and Cheryl or crossover series like Josie and the Pussycats and Sabrina. Parent ensures that Ferrante is able to write his Sharknado moments while couching it directly in the Archie universe, and it strangely works.
On the other side of things, Ferrante brings a lot of his own references to Sharknado into the comic as well. There are lots of chainsaws, helicopters shredding sharks, and tie-ins to the events of the previous films. It all might seem like Ferrante running out of steam if they happened to show up in another installment of the film series, but in Archie vs. Sharknado, they feel more like Easter eggs for the reader to find.
With 48 pages to work with, Ferrante’s got to stretch the plot quite a bit, but he does so in an intriguing way. The issue finds Betty and Veronica separated from Archie and Riverdale because of a trip to Washington, D.C., and so the love triangle between the three is bifurcated by Cheryl attempting to butt her way into Archie’s romances. By splitting the issue into two subplots – Betty and Veronica working their way back to Riverdale in a retrofitted helicopter, Archie and the rest of the Riverdale gang fighting off a tornado of sharks on literally the worst day to have a party on Cheryl’s boat – Ferrante is able to get mileage out of both sets of characters while empowering Betty and Veronica in a way most Archie comics don’t get to do.
Archie vs. Sharknado is still expectedly stupid, and it revels in it by surprising the regular reader of Archie comics with its dark humor. In one of the best segments of the issue, Sabrina makes an appearance as a lifeguard attempting to use her magic to stop the sharks – only to be rapidly gobbled up by a falling shark. Ferrante peppers the issue with this kind of comedy, mostly as sharks ironically munch on the residents of Riverdale, and it’s all the more hilarious because of Dan Parent and Rich Koslowski’s artwork – it’s in the same style as the regular Archie digests, and it’s disturbing to see guts and gore in this cartoonish insanity.
Anyone looking for a serious take on the material, if there can be such a thing, should look elsewhere, though. Ferrante and Parent are aware of how outlandish a sharknado is, and there’s not even an attempt to explain its origin. The characters are simply willing to accept that sharknadoes are now a regular occurrence, and that’s the way that Archie vs. Sharknado works best – simple, dark, and willing to laugh at itself.
By the end, like a storm, the issue plays itself out, but Ferrante and Parent have done the unthinkable. They’ve melded two very different stories together into a book that takes the best of both series. It’s not haute literature, but it’s clear both authors have thought about how each story fits into its niche. Then they bust out of it like a whirlwind with a clever dissection of the Archie universe.