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Jughead's Double Digest #142

Posted: Friday, July 25, 2008
By: Penny Kenny

Various
Various
Archie Comics
Its not a hoax! Not an imaginary story! Not a teaser scene! The cover illustration, showing Jughead kneeling before new girlfriend Sandy with an engagement ring in hand, actually appears in "The Matchmakers," the final installment of the four part New Look story.

The couples' competition continues this issue with an egg toss, horseshoe pitching, badminton, and a relay race. While none of this adds to the main plot, it's still an enjoyable sequence, comparable in some ways to that shonen manga staple of the tournament that tests the hero's mettle. Only in this case, the attention is focused on the hero's companions. Jug and Sandy are background characters at best for the first twenty-one pages. And therein lies my problem with the finale. Jughead and Sandy are interesting characters. They should have been on screen more especially in a story dealing with a proposal. While the story has always been about the gang's reaction to Jug and Sandy as a couple, when the couple's not there, it's hard to react to them. The proposal is introduced, played out and dealt with in five pages. It's not done badly. It's just the whole series has been building up to this moment, and it's over almost before it's begun. Rife with dramatic possibilities, even one or two more panels of Sandy or Jughead interacting with the gang would have given the whole thing more "Umph!"

There's limited character development this installment, but Melanie J. Morgan handles what there is of it well, revealing Jughead and Sandy to be two mature, intelligent young people with an impish sense of humor. I do have two quibbles, however. Nancy is shown to be surprisingly squeamish in a scene that is probably meant to be funny, but comes off as just odd. Also, Reggie is portrayed as a complete jerk. While always competitive, he takes poor sportsmanship to new lows here. Morgan, who scripted him so well last issue, dropped the ball this time. Fortunately, he doesn't appear often.

As before, Joe Staton does a superb job on the action scenes. His lanky, muscled characters look like they're moving on the page. Veronica and Reggie during the egg toss competition are particularly well handled. The view point goes from wide angle to close-up to extreme close-up then back to a close-up, allowing the reader to feel as if she's participating in the game. The layout for the badminton game between Reggie and Ronnie and Archie and Betty is also terrific. Though it runs for six pages it in no way feels over-inflated. Staton varies the shape and size of the panels in a series of fast cuts between players to convey a feeling of movement and speed. At times he dispenses with gutters between panels to increase the tempo and make one long moment of the scene. The flying racket sequence, which could have easily become a confusing mess, is also handled well.

While not as strong as it could have been, the final installment of "The Matchmakers" brings the story to a satisfying a close and is worth seeking out.

The publishers have also provided a super selection of backup stories for this collection. "Til Debt Do Us Part" features Jughead's nemesis, Trula Twyst. Determined not to remain in Trula's debt, the usually relaxed Jug goes on a work spree. It's a battle of wits as Trula tries to teach Jughead a lesson, and he tries to escape her. The fun thing about "Til Debt" is that you have two very smart people playing off each other. And readers get to see the usually unflappable Jughead flap.

In "Tennis Menace" Jug uses psychology in his match against Reggie. Again, we see Reggie having trouble coping with being beaten, but he's not as mean about it here as in "The Matchmakers." There's some good looking art in this one, with Jughead's face being especially expressive.

"Water Boy," "Nature Boy," "Pest Control," "That Sinking Feeling," and "The Hero" all look to be from the late 40s or early 50s. They feature a lanky Jughead who's smart, a bit misogynistic (but not enough that you dislike him for it), and a very physical character. The artist(s) for these stories put Jug in motion. He swims, dives, jumps, and leaps. Silent panels showing just him moving are not unusual. It's an enjoyable Jim Carrey-like version of the character.

Jellybean fans get "Crown Town," an original Jughead bedtime story and "Play Toy," featuring Reggie. Both these stories are highly enjoyable. The art is bright and clean and the humor is sharp.

"Collector's Dream" is the perfect comicon season story, as Jughead introduces cousin Souphead to the joys of comic collecting. Some inside jokes and great art make this story a winner. The bird's eye view of the comicon is especially nice.

Taken all together, Jughead's Double Digest #142 is definitely worth picking up.



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