ADVANCE REVIEW! Jughead Double Digest #176 will go on sale Wednesday, December 14, 2011.
Jughead Double Digests are generally worth picking up just because they feature one of the Archieverse's most individual and intriguing characters, but issue #176 is even better than most.
The issue starts out strong with Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz's "The Christmas Challenge." When Jellybean disappears at the carnival, Jughead loses all interest in the "Cupcake Challenge" eating competition — much to Reggie's dismay. DeFalco does a superb job of capturing Jughead's relationship with his little sister. He adores her. It's evident in the way he holds her and tries to make her happy.
But he's also a typical teen, meaning that sometimes he doesn't have his priorities straight and that causes problems.
"The Christmas Challenge" also introduces a fascinating new character in the person of "Two-Fisted Toni Topaz." Here is a female who "gets" Jughead. While she comes off a bit scary at first, it quickly becomes clear that she's a caring person. DeFalco's script is smart. He mixes drama and humor in just the right proportion. While Jughead's role in the search for Jellybean is played straight, with all the attendant concerns and fears, Reggie's part is strictly comic. As his situation gets worse and worse, it gets funnier and funnier. Ron Frenz and inker Al Milgrom give the cast a slightly more realistic look, which works well for this story. New kid Vic and his mother are especially good-looking in this style. The expressions are easy to read, but not overly exaggerated. There's a montage of Jughead and Jellybean that's just beautiful and a panel of Toni and Jughead together that's poster worthy.
The fabulous Craig Boldman, Rex Lindsey, Rich Koslowski, Barry Grossman, and various letterers provide several tales. This team always comes up with smart, funny stories that capture Jughead's quirky character. While "Fast Friends," a tale of Archie trying to track down Jughead, is very enjoyable with its clever dialog, I think I might like "Wrist Watching!" just a tad more. Here, Jughead agrees to become a model — mainly to annoy Veronica. The story takes a neat twist and turns the tables on Veronica's friendly tormentor. Lindsey and Koslowski have a very clean, attractive art style that's a pleasure to look at.
Jughead dreams that he's a billionaire crime fighter on the trail of the nefarious crew that's stolen his crown in Margopolous, Gene Colan, and Lapick's "Hatman the Crowned Crusader." This is a pretty good take on the Michael Keaton Batman movie. Mr. Weatherbee makes a great heavy and Mr. Lodge as a butler is a neat reversal of character. I particularly like his line "The mop is actually my weapon of choice." Gene Colan's art is, of course, polished and attractive and gives the story some weight.
Pellowski, Ruiz, and Nickerson's "Bird Brainer" shows Jughead's softer side, while Doyle and Schwartz's classic "The Catalyst" demonstrates Jughead's ability to make things happen without even trying.
In "A Season to Remember" by George Gladir, Stan Goldberg, and Jim Amash, Jughead shares his essay on the trials of the previous winter with his class. Thought that might not sound like a particularly interesting concept for a story, Gladir makes it clever and fun. I know there's a literary term for the way Jughead/Gladir start a sentence one way, then take it in a different direction, but it's escaping me at the moment.
Goldberg and Amash's Jughead is slightly older, taller and beefier than the usual model, but he looks good. The artists bring a relaxed, easy feel to the panels by using loose and flowing lines.
The stories collected here make Jughead Double Digest #176 the perfect early Christmas present for readers who enjoy smart humor and characters who march to the beat of their own drummer.
For the past 13 years, Penny Kenny has been an elementary library paraprofessional in a rural school district. For the seven years prior to that, she headed a reading-math program designed to help first grade students with learning difficulties. Her book reviews regularly appeared in Starlog from 1993 to the magazine's unfortunate demise in 2009 and she has published several e-novellas under a pen name. She has been a reviewer with Comics Bulletin since 2007.