If high school students can be capos and detectives on Riverdale, why not superheroes? Archie Superteens vs. The Mighty Crusaders is a new, two-issue crossover event that sees the two crews meet for the first time. It’s written by Ian Flynn, David Williams, and Gary Martin, with art by Kelsey Shannon, and Williams and Martin, as well. Flynn and Shannon were part of the team that relaunched The Mighty Crusaders last year. In anticipation of this crossover, I decided to catch up.
I’m glad I did, because The Mighty Crusaders is extremely worthwhile, but whether you get to that series before this one (a trade is planned for early next year) doesn’t seem pressing. This first issue is weighted towards the Superteens anyway and, while at least one of their names will be familiar to Riverdale fans for another reason, none of the Mighty Crusaders who appear are members of the new team.
It makes me wonder how much they’ll be a part of this series (the new Shield, for instance, is a woman but both the main cover and Tom Grummet’s variant cover feature exclusively male Crusaders). This is a chance to turn new readers onto these characters and while it sounds like the new team is being sent to Riverdale High for the finale, two issues isn’t much time, and they’re already down one.
Being a short crossover, it’s not what I expected. I thought both issues would be evenly split between the two teams. The use of the word “vs.” in the title is also curious, since they’re not on opposite sides (though I guess you could argue one team is more prepared for the job).
As for the nature of that job: a fed-up substitute teacher has decided to get himself noticed for all the wrong reasons. Pureheart the Brave (Archie), Superteen (Betty), Miss. Vanity (Veronica), and Captain Hero (Jughead) are ready to save the day, but “how” is a reasonable question. I’m not sure what their powers are and, in that sense, Archie Superteens vs. The Mighty Crusaders #1 is more of a regular issue of Archie than a Superteens one (if set in a Riverdale where the characters from Jughead’s comic book are real).
It’s important to note most of these critiques developed after reading the issue. If you remove expectations, there’s loads to enjoy in the moment. The sheer amount of laid back humor is something I didn’t see coming. Flynn, Williams, and Martin never leave it to chance that you’ll miss a pop culture reference and after indicating that doom is descending on Riverdale, the first page gives way to an Abbey Road homage that makes sure you know it’s an Abbey Road homage. The series puts fun first, and you’d want to hang out with these characters, whether they were superheroes or not. Their camaraderie’s convincing and having them be heroes never made things less interesting. If the series were longer you could appreciate this issue for what it is but since there’s only one more (and #2 needs to accommodate the introduction of more heroes), it feels too slow.
As for the super-side of the series, the art really comes through in that department. Almost every panel is taken up by the characters, and there are a number of opportunities for them to adopt hero poses. Dressed in their signature colors, they remain recognizable as their alter egos and backgrounds are kept simple, so when there are wormhole lines during the big transformation, you feel the force of the wind in their hair. Two issues isn’t enough for everything you want to see happen, but it’s nice to see that, no matter the genre, Archie comics never lose their Archie-ness.
Archie Superteens vs Crusaders #1 goes on sale June 20th from Archie Comics.