This review contains spoilers.
Vampironica #1 is out in comic stores on March 14. We’ve read it and it definitely hasn’t disappointed. As we said in a previous article, the series puts a new spin on Veronica Lodge, who ‘encounters a centuries-old creature of the night who transforms her into a bloodthirsty vampire. She then descends upon Riverdale’s residents to satiate her newfound hunger.’
As someone who’s mainly read the older Archie comics and none of the newer Archie horror titles, I was intrigued but wasn’t sure what to make of it. Would becoming a vampire permanently change a beloved Archie character into something she wasn’t? Even if it didn’t, would the fact that she was now a vampire distract from the strong and independent personality that we’ve come to expect from Ronnie Lodge?
The answer to both of those questions is “no.” The sibling team of Greg and Meg Smallwood have managed, in this first issue of Vampironica, to make an entirely new Veronica that still stays true to the one we’ve come to know and love.
Except spoilers for Vampironica #1 below.
Vampires are a great fit for Ronnie Lodge
Veronica is a sweet person, though she might not always seem like it. Many of her struggles in previous Archie comics have revolved around her struggle to fit into a middle-class school setting even though she went home to a large mansion staffed by servants every single day.
Veronica is much richer than many of her friends, and that – quite understandably – is at the root of many misunderstandings and conflicts. Sometimes, she can come across as snobbish, like when she looks down on the fact that ordinary people have to wash dishes themselves or flaunts her dad’s credit cards.
Even if that’s the case, however, many comics reveal Ronnie has a heart of gold. She might help a bus of kids who get stuck during a storm, for example, or apologize to Betty for her behavior concerning Archie. Examples like this showcase Ronnie’s vulnerability and her sweet side, even if she’s known as Riverdale’s resident spoiled princess.
Vampironica doubles down on that struggle, that portrayal of not quite fitting in on paper but becoming a beloved member of the gang because she actually does care. However, instead of focusing on a wage gap – which may or may not play a large role in this new series – Vampironica physically differentiates Veronica from the rest of the town.
Moreover, instead of her father’s influence impacting the town, or Veronica herself impacting a few individuals who interact with her, Veronica as a vampire may pose a much more morbid threat to the entire town, and quite possibly the world.
An aside on layout
I’m not sure if I’m the best one to comment on this, but I also have to give a nod to the creative team, who has made excellent use of white space, colors, angles, and paneling to bring the story to life.
Check out, for example, the action shot above, where the undead creature is literally grasping out of the panel to give the feeling of a near miss. Ronnie’s dodge and subsequent uppercut (which, interestingly, also shows that her arm may have something in common with her attack) is vivid and fluidly drawn, which makes the story all that more engaging.
From the lack of images or detailed backgrounds in some shots to the choice of colors in different panels to really emphasize contrasting atmospheres, this comic is a marvelous example of visual storytelling. I’m not even sure if you need to read the dialogue since every shot is so clear and well-paced.
The awesomeness of Vampironica
Vampironica really amps up the ante for Archie comics, and in this first issue the creators have set up an action-packed world that contrasts that theme so often repeated in Riverdale: that beneath this small town there are many secrets.
The secret, in this iteration of Archie, is the undead, as the first few pages so aptly set up. We’re immediately thrust into a world where the undead have come to play, and where Veronica is presented as both a hero and possible villain. There is no wasted action or panel as we first see her pummeling a zombie, then transitioning into the reasons her eyes have turned an evil sort of red.
The reason involves an ages-old vampire who has preyed upon the town’s residents, Veronica included. We know he’s a main culprit in the series, but we don’t know his motivations, nor why he’s chosen to act now of all times, or if he, like IT, only surfaces during certain times. All the more reason to keep reading past the first issue.
In that transition, too, the Smallwoods have taken care to remind us that Riverdale is still Riverdale, no mater how badass Ronnie was in the first few pages and no matter how dark the world has become. Betty, Archie, and Ronnie are still in a love triangle and the vibrant colors and clear indications of teenage angst thrust the reader back to the atmosphere Archie comics has become known for, vampire or not.
The comic showcases a much more vulnerable side of Ronnie, too. She’s really been placed in a situation that’s far removed from anything her character usually encounters. Contrasting her lavish lifestyle, it seems she’s now hiding out in the woods. But right in line with her strong will, she survives something that should have killed her.
Not only that, but she is dealing something much more sinister than a high school romance – more even more sinister, even, than the murder mysteries in Riverdale, because now she might be the cause of all of it.
All in all, Vampironica exceeded my expectations for its first issue, and I’m very much looking forward to more, such as the causes for her transformation, the origin story of that vampire, the reasons zombies now permeate the land and whether they’re related to vampires, and, most importantly, what Veronica Lodge plans to do with her newfound powers.
Vampironica #1 is out in stores on March 14.