Best Shots Advance Reviews: JUGHEAD #1

"Jughead #1" preview
Credit: Archie Comics
Credit: Archie Comics

Jughead #1
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Erica Henderson
Lettering by jack Morelli
Published by Archie Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

While Mark Waid and Fiona Staples casually and beautifully give Riverdale a 21st century makeover, Archie Comics continues to expand the New Riverdale with the first of several parallel series that focus on the supporting characters. The new Jughead series initially came to the world’s attention via a controversial Kickstarter campaign that was quickly cancelled. Yet with the focus now back on the comic book itself, we now know there was never any need for concern, as writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson’s reboot of Riverdale’s resident burger fiend is exactly what you’d expect from two creators known for their quirky senses of humor.

Zdarsky’s Jughead makes perfect sense as a slacker video gamer, one who defiantly doesn’t care about the causes of his friends. The larger problems of the world are the domain of Archie proper, and the new high-school principal is scarcely something that would be a blip on Jughead’s radar. At least until the new authority starts messing with the cafeteria menu, and then the bottomless pit of a stomach finds a cause worth fighting for.

As Mr. Weatherbee appears before the class to step down as principal because “Riverdale High needs to be updated for a more modern curriculum,” it’s immediately obvious that Zdarsky will use Jughead to continue his ongoing dialogue with the audience, just as he is currently doing on the self-aware Howard the Duck. The new school administrator could almost be a representative of the editorial decision to update Archie Comics for a new readership, and in this environment the steadfastly reliable dork of a character becomes the ultimate rebel against authority. Yet being a character who has historically been used for his “comedy of errors” humor value, Zdarsky uses the “imaginary story” trope to allow for more outlandish elements that totally fit within the Jughead ethos, including a seemingly non sequitur parody of Game of Thrones that stays true to form by wrapping back around and informing the main narrative.

Those “crazier” elements are the natural playground of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl artist Erica Henderson, whose familiar style graces the pages of Jughead. Like Staples on Archie, Henderson has taken familiar character designs and molded them to her unique look, from the wide-eyed close-ups to a Betty that just might be a distant relative of Squirrel Girl’s Doreen Green. There’s a joyful montage of Jughead putting a hamburger together, filling a single giant panel with the “maddening” cooking process. Meanwhile, the aforementioned dream sequence pushes the book closer to Henderson’s work on her Marvel title, re-crafting the characters once again into grander heroes in their own saga.

With Jughead, the new creative team have taken the one thing we probably all know about the character (that he is food’s biggest fan) and made that an engaging plot point. Archie can have its love triangle between its title character and the two women who want him, but Jughead burns bright with perhaps an even more mesmerizing triptych: Jughead Jones, his food, and the forces that would keep him from it.

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