Writer: Craig Boldman
Artist(s): Rex Lindsey, Rich Koslowski (i), Jack Morelli (l), Barr Grossman (c)
Publisher: Archie Comics
“I didn’t know you were a chess player!”
“Oh, sure! Why, in one story in this issue, I even beat the chess champ from another school!”
“Haven’t read it!”
But, oh, you really should. That charming self-referential bit of opening dialog between Archie and Jughead is just one of the pleasures of this issue.
In “The Right Moves” Jug needs to find a replacement piece for Mr. Lodge’s chess set. The trail leads first to Reggie, then to an angry ex-sweetheart of Reggie’s, and then to Missy who asks “Aren’t you friends with that cute Archie Andrews?” To which Jughead replies, “You kidding? My comic book was spun off from his comic book!”
This is just a simple swapping tale, familiar from dozens of fairy tales and pictures books, yet Craig Boldman tells it with an enthusiastic sense of fun. Jughead has some lovely lines. The characters are very in character – and Reggie gets his comeuppance.
Rex Lindsey has a clean, clear storytelling style. He varies the grid layout with tilted and half-circle panels, but it doesn’t distract or confuse the flow of the story. He also gives a very specific sense of place to each panel, without overloading it with background detail. Especially nice are the two panels where he uses abstract design in the background. It must have given inker Rich Koslowski fits, but it looks great. Except for Missy, whose perpetual smile is rather creepy, the characters show a nice range of expression. My favorite would have to be Jughead’s as he thinks, “Sudden sense of foreboding!” It comes complete with cloud of doom thought balloon.
“The Usual” is a good-humored little tale that has Jughead conning Pop out of ice cream. It’s all done in fun and Lindsey, Koslowski, letterer Jack Morelli, and colorist Barry Grossman do a beautiful job on the panels showing Pop getting angrier and angrier. The onomatopoeic sound effects and bright, abstract backgrounds add color and humor to Pop’s growing exasperation.
Of the five stories in this issue, the goofy little “The Chip Whisperer” is probably my favorite. In it, Jughead claims chips are telling him where there’s free food. You wouldn’t think you could get an interesting five page story out of one stilly joke, and yet thanks to crisp art and the bright script, it works. One of the better touches is the way Boldman and Lindsey use silent panels. They’re like the pause in a spoken joke - an extra comic beat in the build toward the punch line. This is especially effective on the last page of the story as there are not only two silent panels, but they go from close-up to extreme close-up before exploding into a sound effect. It’s a great piece of controlled comic story-telling.
The final story of the issue, after a one page silent gag, is “The Expert” – the story referred to in the opening dialog of “The Right Moves”. I’m a bit torn on this one as the gang treats Jughead like an amusing pet willing to do anything for food. (Next thing you know, they’ll be introducing “Juggy Snacks” and solving mysteries.) On the other hand, Jughead is perfectly happy and it’s a fun story. So who am I to argue with success?
Overall Archie’s Pal Jughead #184 is an issue I wouldn’t hesitate to hand to a long-time fan, a new fan, or even someone who just needs a chuckle.
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