Review – Jughead: The Hunger #1 (Archie Comics)

Publisher: Archie Comics
Story: Frank Tieri
Artwork: Pat and Tim Kennedy, Matt Herms, Jack Morelli
Release Date: 25th October 2017

Spinning out of the recent one-shot of the same name, Jughead: The Hunger sets the same tone as the critically acclaimed Afterlife With Archie series with a dark, violent and supernatural take on the usually wholesome and upbeat town of Riverdale.

Even if you missed the one-shot it shouldn’t take you too long to catch up, but here’s the basic gist: it transpires that loveable, burger-munching Jughead Jones is actually descended from a long line of lycanthropes, a discovery he makes amidst a spate of brutal murders in and around Riverdale. To complicate matters, everyone’s favourite girl-next-door Betty Cooper also has a secret of her own – her family has made a living throughout history as Werewolf hunters!  She and Archie effectively run Jughead out of town, but not before the wolf within leaves his mark on Reggie Mantle, savagely attacking him and leaving him for dead.

Writer Frank Tieri sets the tone from the very first page as Reggie is rushed into hospital, seemingly dying on the table as the doctors do their best to save him. This ain’t your grandma’s Archie Comics, folks.  We also get to see a little bit of Jughead trying to build some semblance of a life by running away to join the circus, as well as checking in with Betty and Archie as they try to pick up some leads, before things go straight south, leading to a shocking (if a little telegraphed) final page.

It’s a fairly slow-paced first issue which feels primarily concerned with establishing the right mood. It manages to do this effectively, but when you strip away the central hook – the fact that the characters in the series are usually associated with wholesome, cartoony hijinks – there really isn’t a lot that’s particularly fresh or exciting here.  It’s not bad by any means, but it does come across as more than a little by-the-numbers, at least for the time being.

The Kennedys do a solid job with the artwork with some fluid layouts and expressive characters, although some of their character design choices – particularly the final page I mentioned above – feel a little over-the-top, almost cartoony, which detracts somewhat from the mood Tieri has been establishing with his writing. Matt Herms also does a good job with his colours, giving the book a distinctive look – colourful, but muted at the same time – that helps to set it apart from the rest of the Archie Comics catalogue.

There are also some real highlights along the way, too. For instance, Betty is fantastic, and Archie provides an amusing wet blanket of a counterpoint to her in-your-face ass-kickery.  The scene with Jughead and Abbey, a girl he meets at the circus, is also packed with an understated charm and more than a nagging feeling of impending doom.

Ultimately though, while it’s a solid enough opening issue, there really isn’t anything here to make either the story or the artwork stand out. Sure, it’s cool that the story features characters we’d normally associate with high school hijinks, but as that novelty rapidly wears off, it’s going to be interesting to see whether Tieri and the Kennedys opt to steer this story into uncharted waters or play it safe with another enjoyable, inoffensive werewolf yarn.  I’m definitely going to be sticking around to find out, for the next issue at least.

Rating: 3.5/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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