By: Hess Sahlollbey
There’s something to be said about the Archie universe and how it is infinitely malleable.
While the presumption may exist that Archie comics are only for kids, there has been a serious shift to expand its line and draw in new readers. Outside of the well-known digests at grocery store checkouts, the publisher has been expanding into new genres.
What started with Afterlife with Archie, a gory and violent horror comic-book where Archie and the gang have to deal with flesh eating zombies, has now resulted in Archie becoming an avant-garde publisher.
The latest addition to their universe of horror is Jughead: The Hunger. Written by Frank Tieri (Wolverine) with cover and interior art by local Hamiltonian Michael Walsh (Secret Avengers), this oversized tale sees the ravenous appetite of the eponymous character take a sinister turn.
It is currently available online and in print.
I had the chance to speak to Walsh at Toronto ComiCon in March, a week before the release of the book, to flip through his portfolio to see firsthand some of the original art that he had put up for sale. He explained that the while his original comic may have be a one-shot tale, the cliff-hanger ending meant that this may have not be the last we saw of Jughead and his “affliction”.
While he won’t be drawing the interior art anymore for this series, Walsh will continue to draw the covers when the series returns later this year.
From the first page, Tieri evokes the classic tropes of the classic American monster movies of the 70s and 80s with a cold open featuring the death of Ms. Grundy.
It’s a stark juxtaposition with what follows as the reader follows Jughead’s obliviousness to his murderous night time escapades. Given Jughead’s reputation as a human bottom-less pit, the mere sight of him in every panel evokes tension and a sense of uneasiness.
Tieri also gets the rest of Riverdale’s residents into the act. Mainstays like Betty, Veronica and Reggie are all present in this story with one character in particular being elevated to an impressive new role.
With a heavy, murky use of black ink, Michael Walsh brings his own flavour to the comic by using the multi-paneled format made popular by Francesco Francavilla. His substantial use of blacks is interlaced with shadowed cartoony elements that create a dark unsettling atmosphere. While the style may be clean, one can quickly surmise on a deeper analysis that it’s a perfect marriage between the emotional weight of the plotting and the art. One standout panel in particular features a dark two page spread of Jughead as he becomes more conscious of his heightened senses. His panels and designs are evocative and moody. As creepy as it is fun, this book is very much a case of the right artist on the right project.
While the plot and the art may be working in unison, the biggest factor working against this book is the restrained nature of the format. Clocking in at about 40 pages, the plotting is efficient, but could benefit from even a small expansion. Nowhere is this more evident than when it is compared to the rest of the Archie Horror books. The short suspenseful nature of the book means that we never get the opportunity to enter into the thoughts of the characters first-hand.
The series will be returning this October two weeks after the premier of the new season of Riverdale and just in time for Halloween.