If the success of the CW’s hit show Riverdale and Netflix’s new Chilling Adventures of Sabrina series is any indication, there’s something deeply satisfying about seeing classic, wholesome characters from the Archie Comics universe face gruesome challenges and risk a grisly end. The entire Archie Horror imprint, in fact, revolves around this idea, throwing the inhabitants of Riverdale into nightmarish scenarios that harken back to iconic horror books and films. The usual traits of a classic Archie story—girl-next-door Betty Cooper and rich socialite Veronica Lodge fighting for Archie’s attention, Archie clumsily yet endearingly looking out for his friends, Jughead eating everything in sight—mutate grotesquely. Seemingly harmless personality traits become crushing flaws or terrifying powers. Under the lens of old-school horror, the shiny veneer of silliness over the Archie universe cracks and buckles.
In Jughead: The Hunger, Jughead’s voracious appetite, a primary and humorous trait of nearly every iteration of his character over the decades, takes a sinister turn when he wakes one morning to find a dismembered classmate on the floor of his bedroom. Of course, his first move is to seek out the advice of his best friend Archie, who, it turns out, witnessed the attack himself. But before they can discuss it further, Betty Cooper shows up with her own dark secret: she is a werewolf hunter, sworn to pursue any lycanthropic threat that may appear, and her next target is clear: Jughead Jones. The series weaves together three different narratives: Jughead, who is on the run from his violent past in Riverdale; Betty Cooper, whose ancestry compels her to hunt down werewolves and who brings kind-hearted and conflicted Archie along for the ride; and Reggie Mantle, once Jughead’s victim and now a powerful foe in his own right.
Though this book is seriously gory and very dark, writer Frank Tieri never loses the playful tone and easy humor that makes an Archie story an Archie story. For example, as Jughead hides in a seedy hotel to evade capture, he complains to his dog, “most fugitives don’t have to worry about losing control and eating the pizza delivery man.” Tieri, a prolific comic book writer with many Marvel and DC titles to his name, perfectly melds striking horror with the innate improbability and zaniness of Archie Comics. Artists Michael Walsh (#0) and Pat and Tim Kennedy and Joe Eisma (#1-3) integrate the familiar faces of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, and Jughead into a perfectly nightmarish version of Riverdale, and colorist Matt Herms really shines. Against blood reds and deep blues, every scene stands out: it’s stark, bleak and deliciously disturbing.
All of the series from Archie Horror are rated TEEN+, though the language is mild and sexual themes are minimal. Put simply, it’s because the titles are just really, really gory. There are several panels of bloody violence and mutilated bodies rendered with plenty of grisly detail in Jughead: The Hunger. This book is best suited to older teen and adult readers who can stomach the sight of entrails and viscera in nearly every chapter.
This first volume includes the Jughead: the Hunger one-shot that launched the series, as well as issues #1-3 of the ongoing series and the first issue of Vampironica, a similarly-themed story in which Veronica Lodge is a cheerleading vampire. Fans of the other Archie Horror titles—Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina—will find Jughead: the Hunger similar in tone and quality. It is just as dark and delightful as the other offerings from the imprint. Fans of supernatural horror comics like Wytches and Long Lost will find the darkness of Jughead: The Hunger compelling, while Riverdale fans may simply enjoy seeing these characters in yet another dangerous scenario. The premise of Jughead: the Hunger will satisfy classic horror aficionados and Gen-Z Riverdale fans alike, while the compelling writing and genuinely terrifying art has the potential to entice veteran comics readers.
Jughead: The Hunger, vol. 1
by Frank Tieri
Art by Michael Walsh, Pat & Tim Kennedy, and Joe Eisma
Archie Comics (Archie Horror), 2018
Publisher Age Rating: Teen+ (16+)