We’d already seen Afterlife with Archie deal with the zombie outbreak in Riverdale and the arcane mysteries told within the pages of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, both to commercial and critical success all around. So the team over at Archie’s Madhouse decided to explore a different avenue of monster mayhem in the form of werewolves, and who better to personify uncontrollable hunger than the burger boy himself, Jughead Jones. It was no coincidence that the famous sidekick was one of the first casualties to be zombified in Afterlife. The problem there was that we got no real character development past his initial transformation.
Jughead the Hunger #1 was intended to be a one and done Halloween Special, but it was met with such positive feedback that it was greenlit to be an ongoing series. So far, the story has established that the Jones’s and the Coopers have had a generations long feud, a family of lycanthropes versus the monster hunters who seek to destroy them. Jughead is on the run after being ousted as a serial killer, while Archie Andrews throws in with Betty and her family to stop the werewolf problem. Makes for plenty of drama and conflict of interests with the main characters.
(Keep in mind, this exists as a what if/ alternate reality version of the cast of Archie Comics, so it doesn’t exist in canon with mainstream Archie books, Riverdale, or even the other horror titles involving these characters.)
Issue four, titled “Party like it’s 1988”, diverges from this main storyline to provide some town history, which I feel strengthens the case for the deep-rooted hatred of the Jones werewolves and helps the reader identify with the complexities of their relationship with the Cooper family. Last issue, we were introduced to Betty’s aunt, Elena. After slaughtering some wolves (actual wolves, which makes me hate her already), Elena has a flashback to when she was still a young, inexperienced hunter. As this is an advanced review, I don’t want to reveal too many plot points, but I must say that Elena’s interaction with Judah Jones reflects the type of mixed feelings of Betty, Archie, and Jughead in the present. Torn between family tradition and friendships (or more), they each must make choices that determine where their loyalties lie.
There is still plenty of gore, and a few creature feature moments in this issue, but this does more to establish the motivations of Elena than up the creep factor. Frank Tieri does a great job of pulling away from the popular characters of Riverdale to tell a contained story that feels complete and exciting. In twenty pages, we see what made Elena such a hardened, blood thirsty badass in the most unexpected way. She experiences loss and betrayal, but also pressure from all sides to be a certain type of person. I felt sympathy for her. I loved the character. I hated her too. The story set the scene fully developed, and we even get some Easter eggs thrown in.
The art duties were distributed oddly on this book. The first half was done by Pat & Tim Kennedy, with inks by Bob Smith. This style reminded me of some of the Dark Horse comics I’ve read, relying on heavier inking, angular silhouettes, and detailed facial creases. This team excels at the big action sequences, namely the initial wolf slaughter (again, tragic) and a big bad bar brawl. Even the crowd at a mass funeral is very well done. However, the close-up scenes are better handled by Joe Eisma, who handles pencil and ink duties on the back half of the book. His softer portrayal of Elena and Judah really sell the fact that the two are in a difficult situation and he utilizes simple backgrounds (rather than busy and cluttered), which I appreciate. The violence isn’t quite as extreme as with the Kennedys, but he’s used to drawing The Archies, so I cut him some slack. It’s still powerful imagery. Matt Herms colors this with muted tones but never recedes into full gray-scale. I love comics often for their coloring and this brand of story was matched perfectly. Also, while I rarely talk about lettering, I have to give Jack Morelli kudos on making the action so dynamic with the sound effects. All around, this was a truly well done comic.
The funny thing is that Jughead (or any of the teen stars, for that matter) never makes an appearance in this issue and I was not even disappointed. I would have liked the cover art to reflect the eighties setting/content, but look at it! Is that not one of the most kick ass covers you’ve seen?
If this is your first time hearing about Jughead the Hunger, I hope you go out and pick up the first few issues because, like the other horror books published by Archie, it’s a slam dunk. I would go so far as to say you should preorder the first trade now. And who knows? Maybe the Riverdale TV show with have a Halloween episode of its own featuring Jughead as an undead zombie or terrible werewolf. You’ll be glad you picked this issue up before it was “cool”.
I’m going to be honest: up until a couple of years ago when Mark Waid started writing Archie, I practically resented these comics for being grocery store, teen drama throw aways. I didn’t know any better. However, the last few years have seen a radical change in Archie’s vision and they have been very successful. Now they do drama, superheroes, horror, comedy, romance, and more. I have been convinced that Archie deserves just as much credit as any of the big comic publishers out there, and Jughead the Hunger #4 just proves my point. Transformative, 4 out of 5 Stars!
(W) Frank Tieri (A) Pat Kennedy, Tim Kennedy (CA) Michael Walsh
Jughead the Hunger #4 hits shelves on March 7th, 2018 at your local comic book store.
Diamond Order Code: JAN181225
Diamond Order Code: JAN181225