Advance Review: Jughead Takes Flight In Archie’s Superteens Vs. Crusaders #2

by Rachel Bellwoar

What happens if Archie, comicdom’s poster high school teen, has no high school left to attend? As Steel Sterling looks on from a wall of video screens, Archie’s Superteens Vs. Crusaders #2 opens with the massive news that Riverdale High is no more and Zardox, the substitute teacher at fault, hasn’t been taken out yet.

It’s time for The Mighty Crusaders, as issue two does a better job splitting its time between the Superteens and Crusaders. Maybe the Crusaders get a little more action, but that’s warranted given how little they appeared in issue one.

It’s officially not the new, Dark Circle team of Crusaders that are on the job, but an older team (que sera sera, but I still want to see that crossover). Steel Sterling has to dispense every member to take care of Zardox, which tells you how much of a threat he is, but at eleven members (not including Sterling) you need letterer, Jack Morelli’s, identification boxes if you want to know who anyone is. A name and short caption are all that there’s time for, so every member is dispensable. This was the right decision for a two-issue story. More information would’ve bogged the series down in introductions but after finishing issue two I’m more convinced than ever this should’ve been a longer event.

I don’t always feel this strongly, but the ending of this issue doesn’t work. The Archie-verse has space for stories written outside the main narrative. It’s not like Superteens vs. Crusaders is unusual in that way, yet the ending tries to ground what’s happened in reality and that’s unnecessary. Other than wrapping things up quick, it doesn’t bring the story to a natural or satisfying conclusion.

Ian Flynn is one of the writers, Kelsey Shannon is one of the artists, and David Williams and Gary Martin do double duty again as writers and artists. The stripped-down backgrounds continue to be extremely effective. I like that the Eliminators are surrounded by black. With nothing to tie them to a specific location, they are literally talking from the shadows. It’s very nefarious and almost justifies their inclusion since, while they don’t take up too many panels (one this issue), nothing comes of them making an appearance, and if you’re not a regular Mighty Crusaders reader, you might wonder why, or forget that they’re there.

One thing I was looking for last issue, that this issue supplies, is some defining of the Superteens’ super powers. There’s a rule that Archie has to follow to access his powers that’s as exasperating as he can be, which means it’s impeccably designed, and Jughead gets to activate one of his powers with a jingle, which is a fun, superhero touchstone.

A lot of menace is manifested in Zardox’s teeth, while his coloring’s very Archie Horror. Betty doesn’t have much dialogue, but her reaction shots are superb. Especially when Veronica’s trying to save their skins and Betty has to hide that’s she’s laughing, you can trap the Superteens in a box, but you can’t take away their senses of humor.

I wish you could take away the last page of Archie Superteens vs. Crusaders #2 but I won’t have it ruin what this series does well. The creative team may not have gone as deep with these characters as I’d hoped, but the action is lighter and more free without that weight. It’s a comic to read on a hot summer’s day, when high school’s miles away and you can relax without having to worry about anything but stopping Dr. Zardox.

Archie Superteens vs. Crusaders #2 goes on sale July 25th from Archie Comics.

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