The new militaristic regime in charge of Riverdale High continues to make things difficult for its students, but Jughead doesn’t take that lying down; instead, he takes it sitting up during detention. In “Jughead” #2, Chip Zdarsky makes sure his story isn’t just about Jug sleeping off a food coma, though, as he focuses on the character’s more imaginative side, both throughout his school day as well as in his daydreams. Like they did in the series’ debut issue, Zdarsky and Erica Henderson convince skeptical readers immediately that — despite its look — this is a classic-style Jughead story.
Perhaps knowing there’s no better place to open the story than Pop’s Chock’Lit Shoppe (or Pop’s as it now seems to be called), Zdarsky does just that. As there are decades of dynamics already existing between most of these characters, Zdarsky doesn’t have to establish ones as much as remind readers they’re still there, largely the same as ever — and perhaps even a little better, as Zdarsky’s snappy dialogue sounds genuinely natural.
Henderson’s art is a strong acknowledgment of these characters’ comic book roots; her style is deliberately unlike any of the past artists who had mastered the classic Archie house style, yet also acts as a reminder that these are all still comic characters, as she doesn’t try to inject any kind of realism into their appearances. This is where Zdarsky and Henderson demonstrate almost perfect synergy; one can easily picture Zdarsky’s script rendered by Dan DeCarlo or Dan Parent, while Henderson’s Jughead is immediately recognizable on sight, without the benefit of any story context.
Henderson also brings a little more seriousness to Zdarsky’s story; while Zdarsky’s script has an expected level of lightheartedness, the more serious moments come across as ones that are definitely meant to be taken that way. New Riverdale High Principal Stanger and his appointed despotic gym teacher take on a true sense of villainy, at least from a high school student’s point of view; their natures seem honestly mean-spirited and play into every kid’s fear of running afoul of a seemingly fascist principal or sadistic physical education instructor.
Zdarsky gives a clever nod to the old-school comic story approach of multiple shorter stories in a single issue by working Jughead’s dream sequence into the framework of the issue. Even letterer Jack Morelli plays along with a nicely lettered title that itself is an homage to those older tales. Henderson also gets to stretch a bit in this short time travel story, with typical yet fun elements like dinosaurs, Vikings and future high tech weaponry.
“Jughead” #2 is every bit a Jughead story; the new look isn’t an overhaul so much as a simple tune-up. While the tweak serves its purpose in welcoming new readers to Riverdale, it also keeps existing ones engaged.