In Archie #1 Mark Waid and Fiona Staples reframed Jughead as the secret wiseman of the Archie-verse, a comic layabout with more insight than he would ever let on. Now in his own eponymous series, Jughead is focusing more on the first half of that equation. Writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson are focusing on Jughead’s solo adventures in a series where the hamburger-haunted hero resembles a more tightly strung Rodney Dangerfield than anything else. That’s not a bad thing though. Dangerfield is perfect source material for some ludicrous adventures and these two creators are up to the task of landing punch lines on every page.
One of the most appealing elements in Jughead #1 is the manner in which Henderson takes advantage of the comics medium. While Staples has added a serene beauty and whimsy to Riverdale in Archie, Henderson opts to make things a bit more fantastic. Juggy’s life is steeped largely in the same reality, but his mind is allowed to wonder. In one particularly appealing episode, Jughead envisions his circumstances in a Game of Thrones knock-off. Henderson’s knack for exaggeration and allusion makes for jokes that will appeal to readers who both are and aren’t Thrones-fans, although the biggest laugh in the comic relies on a knowledge of both the show/book and who Moose is.
Henderson also adds an extra exaggerated layer to the more mundane adventures in Riverdale. Her character work accentuates the most important feature, launching Jughead’s nose to the front of many panels and securing his new antagonists cheekbones like I-Beams. Under her pencils everything feels slightly larger than life, but manages to still maintain the tone of a high school comedy complete with colorful montages.
Zdarsky understands that the humor in a comic shouldn’t be dominated by verbal punchlines and puns, that the laughs come as part of a team effort. So he’s careful to not overload the comic with dialogue or pack commentary into sight gags. Henderson’s art always has plenty of room to breathe, and Zdarsky focuses on making his laughs land rather than overstuffing the issue.
His outline for Jughead’s first adventure is perfectly situated between the high school trivialities in Archie and absurdities found in Zdarsky’s less-than-all-ages-appropriate comic. The arrival of a new principal challenges Jughead’s most passionate romance with food when school lunches are replaced with an undefinable sludge. It is seemingly the one thing that could cause the laidback Jughead to respond with any amount of energy. His call to action here is made all the funnier through Zdarsky and Henderson’s distillation of the character as the epitome of laziness at the start of the comic. They manage to capture both his status quo and the breaking of that standard in only 22 very funny pages.
Jughead #1 isn’t just another great Archie book; it’s a great humor comic with no additional modifiers needed. Zdarsky and Henderson understand what makes this character function as the star of a series. Jughead isn’t just another part of the Riverdale gang, he’s larger than life launching into high school like Dangerfield busting into Bushwood Country Club. His exploits and daydreams alike feel like the stuff of legend, even if they’re really just one helluva gas.
Also, did I mention there are going to be time police? Because there are, so it’s only going to get better from here.