When it comes to movie monsters, werewolves have sort of become the bastard stepchild of the horror genre. Talk to most horror fans, and they’ll tell you they love vampires, or zombies, or ghosts, but its become rarer and rarer these days that you’ll find those of us that tell you we can’t get enough of those hairy beasts that howl at the moon...
...I blame a lot of this on the fact that the great werewolf films are so few and far between outside of The Howling and An American Werewolf in London. For whatever reason, filmmakers seem to have a difficult time portraying these shape-shifting creatures. Luckily, this isn’t an issue in comic books, and Jughead: The Hunger from Archie Horror is the rule, not the exception.
Last time we saw the cursed Jughead, he had just been shot during a battle with best friend Archie and a group of werewolf hunters led by Betty. Written by Frank Tieri (Wolverine, The Hangman), Jughead: The Hunger #6, sees Archie return home to Riverdale, believing Jughead to be dead. Turns out, Jughead is still very much alive, and needs Archie’s help. An army of werewolves led by Reggie and Veronica have been festering in Riverdale since the rest of the gang has been gone, and they’ve kidnapped Jughead’s sister, Jellybean. Friendships are tested, as not only must Archie and Jughead seek to reconcile what has happened between them, but they must also convince Betty to join their rescue mission, a girl who has dedicated her life to ridding the world of monsters like Jughead.
Its conflicts like these where the heart and soul of the original Archie comics really shine through in Jughead: The Hunger #6. No matter what predicaments the gang found themselves in, the stories were always about the bonds of these kids and their unbreakable friendships. Tieri does an amazing job here of giving the relationships between Jughead, Archie and Betty true depth. Even in a comic full of werewolves and over the top gore, the characters remain grounded in a very real sense. The confrontation that takes place between all three when Jughead and Archie confront Betty asking for help is as tense as you would imagine with three friends who all have good reason to kill each other. The thing is, they don’t want to even if they know they should, and its here that Tieri’s writing really shines, as he realistically weaves through the anger, distrust and sadness that these kids are experiencing. Their friendships are being torn apart by very real monsters, and their struggle with that eminates from the page, giving off a profound sense of sadness that will have you hesitant to turn the page and see what happens next for fear that the last thread of these relationships may snap.
Tieri doesn’t skimp on the creatures or gore either. Jughead: The Hunger #6 is sort of like The Howling meets Salem’s Lot. These aren’t your quadrupedal werewolves. The pack of werewolves growing in Riverdale are hulking, frightening monsters with an evil bloodlust that reminds me of the werewolves that joyfully kill in The Howling. It isn’t about survival for these things. They LOVE the thrill of pulling someone’s guts out. Just ask Mr. Lumpkin, the Mailman, in this issue. Pat & Tim Kennedy (The Death of Archie) and Joe Eisma (Morning Glories) do a spectacular job designing each creature so that they stand out from one another. No one werewolf looks the same. Reggie is particularly intimidating with his Scar from The Lion King mane, and is it wrong that I’m still just the slightest bit attracted to Veronica, even if she is covered in fur and could rip me in half? The colors by Matt Herms (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) are also fascinating. You can’t find a page that isn’t splashed with red, in particular the sky, which appears to be in a perpetual state of bleeding that only adds to the horrific bloodlust running rampant in this story.
It would be contrite of me if I failed to mention the werewolf hunters not far behind Jughead and what’s left of the gang, who are packing some seriously awesome equipment this time around, including a laser emitting baseball capable of shredding big drooling fur-balls to pieces. Like many of the issues in the series, Jughead: The Hunger #6 leaves us on one hell of a gory cliffhanger. It feels as if we’re nearing the end here. All parties involved have closed in on one another. It’s high noon and I’m ready for one last drink of whiskey before stepping out into the blistering sun for the final showdown. Jughead: The Hunger #6 hasn’t just left me hungry, I’m STARVING for more, and that’s a credit to Tieri and the rest of his fantastic team.
By Matt Konopka