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Review: Jughead The Hunger #1

JugheadHunger1Archie Comics’ horror imprint shifts from zombies, witches, and vampires in the gut wrenching and emotionally destructive Jughead: The Hunger #1 from writer Frank Tieri, artist Michael Walsh, and co-colorist Dee Cunniffe.  Opening with the adorable old lady version of Miss Grundy getting brutally killed by the Riverdale Ripper, the comic, like the other Archie horror books, transposes the character qualities of these iconic characters into another genre. What if Jughead’s great appetite for burgers and various and sundry junk food extended to human flesh? What if Betty has great determination because she comes from a long line of fierce warriors? Tieri makes a smart choice by not really changing who Archie is as a character. He is loyal to Jughead to a fault even when he witnesses him murder Dilton Doily as a werewolf. Poor, silly Archie.

The opening pages of Jughead: The Hunger #1 are a master class in how to build suspense in a horror story similar to the cold opens of Halloween, Screem, and recently, Get Out. Walsh and Cunniffe use a strong blue and red palette to contrast a frightened Miss Grundy and her disembodied head. There is a rhythm to her fear and the Riverdale Ripper’s attack that shows up later in his blood red heartbeats as Jughead can sense everything in Riverdale. It’s not as striking as a gory image of furry paw carrying a still bleeding school teacher head, but a double page spread showing that Jughead can smell Midge’s perfume and his dog Hot Dog scratching himself from anywhere in town.

One reason that horror works in the Archie universe is because Riverdale is such an idyllic place. This is a town where deciding to get a second milkshake or choose between two attractive teenage girls are life and death choices so adding any kind of death or gore is a Jugheadinteriormore heightened experience. Tieri and Walsh create even more tension by quickly juxtaposing townfolks looking at Miss Grundy’s body to Jughead going to town on a plate of food, including a whole fish on a burger, at an all you can eat buffet. Walsh and Cunniffe’s color palette does its job again switching out the usual brightness of Jughead’s solo book or appearances in Archie for something washed out and sickly. The ketchup on his face could easily be blood, and Tieri and Walsh revisit this image for horrific effect later on when Jughead realizes that his great appetite has been sated because he’s been supplementing burgers and fries with the people he cares about the most.

Partially because it’s an “Elseworlds” type story and doesn’t affect the continuity of the main Archie or even the Afterlife and Sabrina universes, Frank Tieri says no to happy endings and easy solutions and embraces the tragedy of the werewolf story. Jughead isn’t fluffy Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but like Lon Chaney in The Wolf Man even if Tieri adds an extra layer of mythology by making Betty Cooper, the latest in a line of werewolf hunters, which is the only reason she’s in Riverdale. His appetites can’t be controlled, he definitely doesn’t belong in and someone has to put him down the like the rabid, mutated dog he is before he hurts another innocent citizen.

In Jughead: The Hunger #1, Frank Tieri, Michael Walsh, and Dee Cunniffe exaggerate Jughead Jones’ defining characteristic and turns it into something horrifying. Without his humanity and sense of humor, he’s just a creature of pure appetite and id and makes for a great villain in a horror story. And Walsh takes Jughead’s eating habits, which usually a cute, running gag and turns it to something disgusting as Reggie remarks early on.

Story: Frank Tieri Art: Michael Walsh  Colors: Michael Walsh and Dee Cunniffe
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

 Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review