When Archie Comics released their recently revamped flagship title, I was all over the comic. So naturally I was quite excited to read a book about Archie’s best friend Jughead, especially with such a legendary creative team at the wheel.
Archie Comics set a new tone for the publishing company with the release of Archie #1, but can they keep the momentum going with his gluttonous friend? More importantly, is it good?
Jughead #1 (Archie Comics)
Archie’s in there too!
Right from the start, Jughead is a lovable protagonist. He is goofy, relatable, and very well characterized. His shtick is clearly that he loves hamburgers and will go to any length to secure future hamburgers for himself. He is also incessantly lazy and plays videos games until an ungodly hour. This is all well and good, and lends itself to some funny moments at Juggie’s expense but alone those attributes don’t seem as though they could carry a whole issue’s worth of story, much less an entire series. So what’s Jughead’s magical trait that can make this comic work? His initiative.
Although Jughead is at his core an impressively lethargic human being, and this comic establishes that immediately, when something he loves is at danger (in this issue, the hope of ever having hamburgers again for school lunch) he can be proactive and fight for what he believes in. That’s a very endearing characteristic, and in the mid-comic “Game of Jones” riff, we see Jughead’s initiative and drive come into play. This parody is of course foretelling of the rest of the issue in which Jughead actually does exert himself in an attempt to bring burgers back to school. While this idea of Jughead turning his drive on only for food is goofy and for comedic effect, there is something pretty real buried under the laughable conflict. Sometimes people really aren’t able to muster up the energy to do anything productive unless a comfort they take for granted is at risk. Although a real person with this issue may look inside themselves and contemplate this inability to take initiative, Jughead doesn’t exactly do a lot of soul-searching in this comic.
The artwork will certainly be a draw for many comic fans who enjoy great visual expression. Erica Henderson does a solid job catering to Jughead’s goofy nature with some cartoony yet striking art. There is high emotion in all of the panels intended to have dramatic effect, and the panels flow beautifully together. Ms. Henderson was craftily able to take the hackneyed tactic of using lines surrounding a face to express surprise and reinvent it for a modern comic. Instead of simply widening the eyes of a character and implementing little scratch marks to express the character’s emotions, she also dramatically changed the color scheme of the panel, or the angle from which it was drawn. This creates a more shocking and visually arresting sense of emotion in characters.
Despite the fact that author Chip Zdarsky managed to invent a compelling story for Jughead, sadly I don’t think regular narrative alone would have been sufficient to sustain the life of this comic. That is why it so fortunate that these first 32 pages of Jughead are littered with humorous elements and goofy jokes. There are funny lines of dialogue, great moments of physical comedy, all revolving around Jughead’s sarcastic and sassy demeanor. Jughead’s presence as a character is felt most strongly when he is delivering a joke or making a scene funny.
Is It Good?
A refreshing debut. Chip and Erica manage to capture the essential Jughead spirit while also bringing a beloved old character into a new age of comics. Brilliant and entertaining.