By Greg Smallwood, Meg Smallwood, and Jack Morelli
Continuing the trend and imprint that started with Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Vampironica is exactly as the title suggests…Veronica Lodge as a vampire. This initial issue focuses on how she became an undead being. It’s a fairly straightforward, but entertaining comic. The majority of the content is fairly tame, the publisher marks it as a teen book, but the violence and gore is not all that disturbing or shocking. The boundaries are not pushed hard in this book.
The duo of Greg and Meg Smallwood are able to deliver enjoyment on multiple levels and to varying audiences. The melodrama and charm longtime Archie fans come to expect is present throughout, but the dark, horror-tinged elements put a nice spin on those tropes. Yet, the tropes associated with genre are heavily implemented into the plot and become a bit cliché. There wasn’t anything innovative plot-wise; it’s fairly predictable and that can affect the reading experience. The premise has a lot of potential considering the other titles in the Archie Horror line, but Vampironica seems to just toe the line instead of sinking its fangs into some heavy character development and intense horror. Despite this drawback, the comic still seems to find a charm and oddity to it that will allow readers to engage with the content. The dialogue feels appropriate for the established characters and keeps the material moving at a brisk pace, which aids in allowing readers not to dwell too much on the deficiencies in the narrative.
Greg Smallwood’s artwork feels in-tune with the horror elements that the comic is leaning heavily on. His use of heavy details lines heightens the atmosphere around the characters and settings. His interpretations of the Archie characters are as one would expect and are barely strays from their typical designs. Perhaps what is most troubling is the how misused the space pages are. There is so much white between panels that it’s distracting and feels as if Smallwood was cutting corners on art duties, so much space was wasted that could have been used to expand the illustrations of the clearly talented artist. The colors applied to particular scenes are worth noting because he implements a specific palette to the melodramatic moments in contrast to the overall dark, bleak tone of the issue. Again, it goes back the atmosphere and emotion that’s wanting to be conveyed and it’s done quite well. His panels are very strong, but the sequential flow is broken by not having the panels connected and the consistent gaps of white. It’s a bit of a disservice to the overall experience.
Basically, Vampironica is not demading of its readership, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Some readers just want a simple, fun diversion. Those expecting a thought-provoking or inventive experience? Well, this comic is not for you. The scripting and art serve the comic well, for the most part, but neither is particularly exemplary. Archie fans and some newcomers will find it agreeable, but expectations should be adjusted prior to reading the book.