Review: Veronica Joins the Ranks of the Undead in the Fun, Smart Vampironica #1
Archie Horror (an imprint of Archie Comics) is absolutely killing it lately. From Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to Jughead: The Hunger, things get pretty dark in the usually sunny town of Riverdale, and that’s probably how Veronica Lodge likes it now, considering she’s one of the undead in the imprint’s newest title, Vampironica, by sibling team Meg and Greg Smallwood. Where the CW Riverdale show is dark in a Twin Peaks sort of way, Archie Horror comics lean into the supernatural. Zombies, demons, witches, werewolves, and vampires give the gang a lot more to worry about than love triangles and saving Pop’s Diner.
In Vampironica #1, a red-eyed, be-fanged Veronica rescues Cheryl Blossom’s party from a horde of vampires, and we learn how Veronica herself becomes one of the undead. The bloodsuckers who crash the party are feral, terrifying creatures in the throes of bloodlust, but the suave gentleman who visits Lodge Manor maintains an aristocratic façade, his true nature only revealing itself to Veronica at the last moment. Veronica likewise seems able to retain her blue-blooded disposition, despite having developed a taste for the real thing. These archetypes speak to the dual nature of vampirism in mythology and literature, where allure and revulsion, desire and restraint go hand-in-hand.
The Smallwoods clearly did their revenant research to incorporate vampirism into the Archie-verse. A newspaper clipping from The Riverdale Gazette explains how “vampire panic” first appeared there, drawing from real-world vampire lore. A misunderstanding of disease and death combined with the grief of losing a loved one drove mourners to focus their attention on the corpses of their dearly departed. If a corpse had significantly changed after interment, or contained what appeared to be fresh blood, it was surely a sign that the body had reanimated, possibly infected by something unnatural. As a corpse really doesn’t have a lot of options but to decompose (which involves both physical change and bodily fluids, depending on various factors of its death and burial), these superstitions grew into elaborate practices intended to ward off the malevolent forces believed afoot.
And then, of course, there are sexy fictional vampires. John Polidori’s Lord Ruthven in The Vampyre is more or less based on the careless hedonism of Lord Byron. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla is thematically concerned with dangerous feminine sexuality. Let’s just say that using “thirst” as a way to describe lust or wanting isn’t a recent linguistic invention. What’s really interesting about Vampironica is that Veronica has always been the sexy counterpart to Betty’s wholesome, girl-next-door persona. Veronica is always wanting something. And Veronica always gets what she wants, right? Except here, the Smallwoods have placed her in a scenario where she doesn’t actually want to indulge her desires. She fights against the predatory urges of vampirism within herself, and as she vanquishes the vamps who try to eat Cheryl’s party guests.
One of my favorite tropes in vampire fiction is the sexy-vampire-with-a-conscience. Perhaps the most well-known of this type are Louis of Interview With the Vampire fame, or Twilight’s sparkly Edward. Obviously, Veronica has the sexy vampire part down, but she’s nowhere near as melancholic and self-loathing as Louis or Edward, and she isn’t typically the conscientious type. It’s her Blade-like vampire hunting, as well as other—pardon the pun—high-stakes details of her transformation I won’t spoil here, that suggest her monstrous thirsting is at odds with her sense of self. As a girl used to fulfilling her every whim, what exactly does Veronica do now that her deepest, primal desire is for something she doesn’t want?
My favorite thing about Veronica has always been her strong will. Sure, sometimes it can come across as arrogance or entitlement, and maybe she’s a little bit spoiled. But she’s certainly not going to let a little thing like insatiable vampire thirst dictate to her. Also, do you really think Veronica is going to stand for transforming into some hideously ugly, ill-mannered brute? Do you know how hard it is to get blood out of a designer frock? Not to mention the damper it’s put on her social life. Okay, so maybe she’s more like two-thirds conscience and one-third vanity. She may be a vampire, but she’ll always be Veronica Lodge.
Tia Vasiliou is a senior digital editor at comiXology. She has been interested in vampires and death since she was a child, which is totally normal right? You can find her on Twitter @PortraitofMmeX to get some reading recs for revenant research.
(image: Archie Comics)
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