When there was no room left in hell, the dead stalked Riverdale. Then, we saw a wholesome skin peeled back to reveal chilling satanic masses at the center of Sabrina’s teenage life. At this point, it almost seems quaint to think of Jughead as a feral monster off barking at full moons. We’ve already see a one-shot fun-shot of the concept, but how does the kickoff to the series proper fare?
Jughead: The Hunger #1
Written by Frank Tieri
Illustrated by Pat & Tim Kennedy
Inked by Bob Smith and Jim Amash
Colored by Matt Herms
Lettered by Jack Morelli
Jughead Jones is a werewolf, and Reggie Mantle has fallen victim to Jughead’s monstrous ways. Now Betty Cooper: Werewolf Hunter along with Archie Andrews are hot on the trail of Jughead.
Of all the Archie horror titles, “Jughead: The Hunger” #1 feels the most like it could feasibly belong in that same classic universe as the chocolate shoppes and jangly red jalopies we knew and loved. There’s a throwback sort of innocence in Frank Tieri’s decision to have Jughead run away from his home to go join a traveling circus. And having Betty and Archie canvas different burger joints along the highway running out of town is an efficient way to let us know that the scrawny kid on the lam is very much the one we’re familiar with, albeit a little hairier than usual once or twice per month.
On the other hand, Tieri has all the pieces in place to make Betty Cooper the biggest badass Riverdale’s ever seen. Halfway through the issue, Pat and Tim Kennedy craft a full-page collage that succinctly summarizes the initial one-shot. Jughead, push broom in hand, looks on at the hulking wolven ferocity that gives life to both his hunger and rage. His trademark crown perches atop the teeth-gnashing snarl of the beast within. Bloody photographs are strewn about underneath to show the trail of dead left in Jug’s wake. But the main stage is wrestled away by Betty. Her searing intensity seethes across the middle third of the page and the .44 Magnum gripped in her hunter’s hands lands dead center with such weight you could imagine Clint Eastwood having trouble holding it up. The Kennedys overlay her image atop a glowing, full moon. And while it’s obvious what that symbolism means to Jughead, the positioning implies Betty sees that lunar event as never anything less than a hunter’s moon.
We’re a long way from love triangles, milkshakes, and sock hops. “Jughead: The Hunger” #1 might feature Forsythe P. as its titular character, but if there’s to be a real star emerging from the series, all bets are on Ms. Cooper. Tieri turns Archie into something of a hapless, weak-necked sidekick. At one of the burger joints, Betty handles the bad-cop interrogation techniques (literally, pulling a short-order cook over the counter by his shirt collar), while Archie leaves a handful of crumpled bills and small coin by the register to apologize for her gruff demeanor (and pay for damages inflicted upon the far corner jukebox). It’s a novel and entertaining dynamic.
Jughead, on the other hand, suffers from some lacklustre characterization. He’s drawn mopey and introverted, almost to the point of sniveling. Tieri introduces us to some of the circus brethren and the Kennedy’s take us for a tour around their travelling home. Jug even gets a couple moments to ponder his own nature while staring at the pack of lions the circus has in tow. But his morose nature leaves these parts plodding and anti-septic. Now, it’s not really a spoiler to say that someone eventually gets found eviscerated in the long grasses outside the lion’s cage – and there is a genuine shock at who the victim turns out to be – but it’s hard to get invested in this portion of the story before the blood starts to spill (as an aside, Pat & Tim Kennedy deserve a certain round of applause for drafting an image that feels suitably gruesome without really being overtly gory).
The same goes with Reggie’s story threads, which act like bookends for “Jughead: The Hunger” #1. The issue opens with Reggie, body torn to ribbons, gurneyed into a frantic ER. Given this is a werewolf tale, we can all see where this is going. But the sequence seems to drag over the course of multiple pages, before finally ending with restrained atmospherics that focus on the terrified reactions of the emergency room staff rather than Reggie’s lycan transformation.Continued below
The Kennedy’s art is serviceable. But while there’s intensity and pathos in their characters, the overall impact never feels particularly gripping or propulsive. And it doesn’t seem to own a distinct aesthetic in the way that “Afterlife with Archie” or “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” do.
In the end, “Jughead: The Hunger” #1 stumbles a bit out of the gate. Time will tell if Frank Tieri and Pat & Tim Kennedy can work through the stiffness. Betty Cooper – B.A.M.F. – ensures the series will have some leash to do so. But that leash will get shorter and shorter if the excitement and tension don’t spike, and spike soon.
Final Verdict: 6.5 – What made for an entertaining one-shot feels more like hamburger horror than Hammer Horror.