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Jughead: The Hunger

Script by Frank Tieri
Art by Michael Walsh
Published by Archie Comics

Archie’s Horror line has been putting out some of the best comics on the stands, be that the zombie epic Afterlife With Archie or the 70s-style occult Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina. This week, Frank Tieri gets a turn at making good kids go bad with a little werewolf adventure starring the lovable Jughead Jones.

The Riverdale Ripper has claimed four victims, including poor Miss Grundy, and everyone is freaking out. As the gang tries to drown their fears at an all-you-can-eat buffet, they notice Jughead is even hungrier than normal… and maybe a little feral. This leads to a night of vicious murder, shocking secret identities, and impossible moral decisions. Who would ever want to shoot good old Jughead full of silver bullets?

God, Michael Walsh’s art is tremendous. He had a killer run on Secret Avengers, and his superhero style translates well to the Americana-Horror mashup of this book. Some of the Archie stunts, like Archie Meets The Ramones, squeak by on good-hearted parody, but what makes the Horror line books so impressive is their ability to tell scary stories without stopping to wink at the camera. Betty facing down a werewolf isn’t funny; we connect to Betty as an American legend, and we fear for her because she could be the girl next door. And Walsh nails that, the realism only bending to stylization enough to connect this woman to the classic Betty Cooper look.

Frank Tieri also turns in some of the best work of his career, tossing out gruesome scenes but emphasizing how awful this is in the context of usually innocent children, not getting caught up in the provocative joke. When Jughead stands up for himself against Reggie’s bullying, it’s a subtle buildup toward the animal transformation, not a cheeky fanboy wish-fulfillment.

I can see why this is a one-shot instead of its own series, but man, it holds its own against the best issues of Sabrina and Afterlife With Archie. Pick up a copy for the Horror fan in your life at any of the three Ultimate Comics locations.

-Matt Conner