Story by: Chip Zdarsky
Art by: Erica Henderson
Lettering by: Jack Morelli
When we last left our hero, Jughead was engaged in a game of mental chess with Riverdale High School’s new principal, Mr. Stanger. Jughead was wrongfully expelled when a knife was planted in his bag, and we open this week with Jughead’s father – Mr. Jones – claiming ownership of said knife, saying that he left it there accidentally after borrowing Jughead’s bag for a fishing trip. It’s a strong start to the issue, seeing the support system Jughead has; his family is on his side and fully believes his innocence in spite of his expulsion from school, which only makes the abusive tactics from the teachers stand out all the more.
There’s something particularly striking about the balance between Chip Zdarsky’s quippy, clever dialogue and the relatively serious situation unfolding in the story itself; I’ve made mention of it before, but I still find it a strong choice of story-line to start Jughead off with — I always felt an important cornerstone of Archie comics in general was not only the humor and the romance, but also the tackling of tougher teen topics (that’s a mouthful) in relatable, comprehensible ways; especially when they could do so without getting preachy. By combining Jughead’s irreverence and eccentricity with circumstances he’s forced to take seriously but still does so in a way very uniquely Jughead, we get a comic that is relevant to real problems without weighing the tone down too heavily. The R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. stories were also always among my favorite Archie psuedo-spinoffs, but I’d say unbiasedly that the implementation thereof in this month’s fantasy sequence was perhaps the best of the lot so far. The spy theme works perfectly against the backdrop of a real conspiracy of sorts unfolding in the school, illustrated beautifully once again by Erica Henderson.
Jughead continues to be a real gem which really shows off Henderson’s range in a way other titles may not necessarily be able to pull off, simply because Jughead is a book with such a unique range. From the tight 8-panel moment-by-moment layouts where body language, expression, and small environment changes can make even Jughead sitting in a chair a fluid, interesting sequences to the dynamic, action-packed fantasies where people run and jump and fire strange weapons, where there’s cackling enemies and glass shattering all over, she has it all covered. Jughead is different than Archie, and so Zdarsky’s Riverdale has to be just a little different, too. Henderson captures this to a T, and in the end you get a title that goes great with Waid’s Archie without being derivative whatsoever. Jughead continues to be a bit wilder, a bit more centralized on Jughead himself in comparison, but the supporting cast develops around him bit by bit even through their brief cameos.
I can’t quite predict how this story-line will conclude, but I also like that; it’s enjoyable just seeing it unfold bit by bit, seeing the characters move around like game pieces. Jughead has a great momentum to it, and I think it will only continue to pick up speed.