ADVANCE REVIEW! Jughead #208 will come out on July 13, 2011.
For most of her Archieverse career, Ethel, formerly known as Big Ethel, has had two consistent traits: she was unattractive and obsessed with Jughead. While she’ll never be a classic beauty, artists these days draw her as a young woman with her own unique sense of style. She’s still obsessed with Jug though. Or is she?
In “The Sisterhood of the Travelling Jughead,” a cute variation on the title of a popular teen novel series and the second part of Craig Boldman’s A Jughead in the Family arc, Jughead moves in with Ethel’s family as he’s not ready to go back to his own. Despite having invited him and being in a situation that would seem to be a dream come true, Ethel is avoiding Jug, which creates an interesting new dynamic for the pair. Jughead, always the pursued, becomes the pursuer as he tries to figure out what’s going on.
Boldman does a wonderful job drawing out the suspense without making the story seem padded. While the same basic joke is continually used, it’s funny and consistent with Jughead’s character. Really, what else would Jughead be distracted by but food?
Ethel is treated well in this story. Boldman gives her dignity and shows that for all her over the top pursuit of Jughead, she’s a sweet, kind-hearted person. While it’s never referenced outright in the story, you have to think Ethel’s family is quietly aiding and abetting her given their actions. This might also be the first time readers have actually seen her extended family.
Rex Lindsey, Jim Amash, Jack Morelli, and the Digikore Studios do a beautiful job on the art. The first page is a masterpiece of dramatic misdirection. Arms reach from the shadows on the left side of the page toward an unsuspecting Jughead. In the next panel, he’s been grabbed. In the third, he’s backed against a wall, surrounded by three determined looking males. Combined with the dialog, “Cut the pleasantries! We want information!” it creates the sense you’re about to read a noir mystery. It’s a dramatic way to open the series and just the first of many scenes that throw the reader for a loop.
There are so many things to enjoy about Lindsey’s art. The way he incorporates little things like Jughead tying a shoe or pulling off a sock to create a sense of reality. The expressive faces and body language. The expression on Jughead’s face as he listens to a conversation while pretending to be asleep is wonderful, as is the way Ethel hunches over an armful of photo albums.
In another neat trick, Lindsey uses a six-panel layout for all but three pages. However, the pages are so individualized, with various arrangements of panels in different sizes and shapes, that you don’t notice he’s sticking to a fixed limit. The images are also so energetic that they burst off the page.
Jughead #208 is an enjoyable issue that works as part of a larger story arc or on its own. Fans of frantic, frustrated romantic comedies are urged to give it a try.