Vampironica No. 1 was essentially just a brief introduction to Archie Comics’ latest horror book. It was a fast and good-looking comic, one that got the horror started, laid on some heavily eerie ambiance, turned Veronica Lodge into the titular Vampironica, and gave all of us readers some of Greg Smallwood’s creeptacular imagery to feast our eyeballs on (much like Vampironica feasted on supple necks). But that first issue wasn’t a substantial read, and, truth be told, it didn’t really have to be. It was a hook and that was just fine.
Now, fast-forward a couple months (there have been delays), and here we are at Vampironica No. 2, which does a solid-to-very-good job of filling in any expository blanks left by its predecessor, questions like who turned Veronica, what's this story going to be about, and exactly what sort of vampire will she be? Vampironica No. 2, to put it simply, delivers missing context, while also upping the ante by throwing in usual Riverdale melodrama (of the Archie-Betty-Veronica variety, of course), plus an unexpected twist.
This issue strikes an excellent middle ground between horror and camp, the exact tone these Archie horror books need to hit in order to work best. Greg and Meg Smallwood (who joins her husband here for a story by credit) are clearly fans of both Archie and horror, and they seem to lean into what they're inner fans would like to see.
I won’t spoil it, but there is one particularly campy and grotesque dream sequence about midway through the book that let me know the Smallwoods were in full control, and that we as readers/Archie horror fans could just sit back and trust in the upcoming bloody fun.
Smallwood’s art is, of course, excellent throughout, but he especially excels with Veronica’s facial expressions, which run the usual Veronica gamut from OMG what am I even doing in Riverdale I’m a Lodge! to very charming and sweet. As far as the story goes, this is also a deceptively-dense script, one driven by three distinct types of storytelling: Riverdale, horror, and mythology.
By the time we reach our end, we’ve gotten key ingredients of our hero’s journey: Veronica has a mentor for the threshold she’s crossed, and we as an audience have a villain to watch machinate against her. This issue basically assures us that the book will go to some delightfully-dark places, made even livelier by Smallwood’s strong artwork.
Overall: Vampironica No. 2 delivers any and all missing context that the first issue that was withheld in favor of stylish brevity. Smallwood’s artwork is strong and creepy as ever, and the Smallwood’s story shows not just an excellent grasp of Riverdale, but that they might just have a bit more planned than Vampironica biting a bloody path through high school. 7.7/10
Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.