In tandem with the premiere of the camp phenomenon Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, the folks over at Archie Comics have released a special tie-in digest, titled Archie vs. Sharknado. Much like the Syfy franchise on which it's based, the book's kitsch factor is hiked up to 11 — and it's a delight to behold. Filled with unmitigated shark violence and pure campy glee, reading this novelty Archie spin-off is worth every second.
In every critic's miserable existence, it is almost mandatory to quote Susan Sontag at least once. I'm using my requisite Sontag card on Archie vs. Sharknado, especially involving its "camp" factor, i.e., its cultural aesthetics:
The whole point of Camp is to dethrone the serious. Camp is playful, anti-serious. More precisely, Camp involves a new, more complex relation to "the serious." One can be serious about the frivolous, frivolous about the serious.
While it's obvious that the main propulsion of Archie vs. Sharknado is its fantasticality and dark-yet-goofy antics, there is a nugget of Sontag's "seriousness" — a survivalist factor that keeps us addicted, despite all of the caricatured innards thrown onto its pages. Authoritarians like Veronica's father, millionaire tycoon Mr. Lodge, are torn to (actual) pieces within the first five pages, giving agency and power to a demographic that is usually the victim of disenfranchisement in these sorts of tales: the young'uns who inherit that power, and harness it to save the world. Whether intended or not, this gives the comic a welcome subtextual balance between levity and, well, ample shark gizzards.
Other highlights include the focus on Betty and Veronica's friendship (despite the somewhat cheesy invocations of the 90s motto "Girl Power!"). The power duo hijacks helicopters and performs a death-defying leap from an uprooted, tornado-caught Washington Monument onto the stone lap of the Lincoln Monument without even breaking a sweat — casting them as the true heroes of the issue.
The book is a mix of raucous gore, cartoon kitsch, and excellent comedic timing. (An example: early on in the digest, Sabrina the Teenage Witch attempts to come to the rescue, being the only one who could feasibly save Archie and the entire gang, given her magical abilities. After a mere few panels, she ends up getting her limbs quartered by two different sharks in a perfect, black-humored plot twist.)
Archie vs. Sharknado is a romping, bloodthirsty success.