Writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson continue to make Jughead one of the funniest and most unique current comics in their third issue. Zdarsky hits the right note of dry humor and depression in his script starting with the opening scene of Jughead playing video games. That aren’t really there. Henderson’s skill as a gesture cartoonist serves this scene well as she really sells the fact that Jughead is immersed in his favorite MMORPG like the opening of Jughead #1 when in fact he’s just talking to himself and staring at a blank TV screen. And this is only the start of the comedic brilliance that is this comic, like when Jughead’s dad, Forsythe Jones Sr aka Jonesy, shows up to reduce his expulsion for a knife to one more spy parody in a year where there have been over a half dozen wide release spy films. Also, there’s the leaning on the fourth wall running gag of Archie thinking he’s the protagonist of this comic when it’s obviously the suave Mr. Jones.
Jughead #3 is a real showcase for Zdarsky and Henderson’s abilities to draw and write the whole Riverdale crew, and not just the hero of our story. In the spy dream (Or maybe not) sequence, Henderson channels her kick butt art on Unbeatable Squirrel Girl to show Betty Cooper taking her rightful place as an action heroine alongside Furiosa, Rey, and Ilsa Faust (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation). Whereas, Jughead and the other Men from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. take out the robot versions of their teachers in a cheesy, gadget heavy 60s spy way that wouldn’t be out of place in a Roger Moore Bond film (or Austin Powers), Betty just flat out kicks ass with sweeping kicks and a cool blue and white jumpsuit. There are a couple great moments towards the end featuring Reggie, Dilton, and even Pop himself (Who gets the funniest line of the issue, and it’s not even in the dream sequence.) that show Zdarsky and Henderson’s understanding of what makes these characters tick and hilarious.
But Jughead #3 isn’t all fun and games as Jughead’s depression about missing the surreal hijinks of Riverdale High and his friends starts to take a toll. There’s the opening video game scene, but also some kinda sad dialogue from Jughead about how he’d rather be at school dodging drones, sitting through boring lectures, and eating slop than stuck at home doing nothing. It’s that same kind of feeling when you’re at the tail end of a school break, bored of your old friends, tired of the Netflix and Comixology queues, and just want to be back at college/high school/grad school, I guess. And Zdarsky also makes Jughead’s jokes as kind of a coping mechanism for his melancholy, like random knife ones and another one involving an ice gun in the spy dream sequence.
Presumably, Jughead #3 is about Jughead trying to deal with filling his time while he’s expelled, er, suspended, but it ends up being a wonderful showcase of Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson’s talents at writing and drawing the odd denizens of Riverdale. The supposed background moments end up being funniest (Like Zdarsky’s art on Sex Criminals.) like two teachers going all Siskel and Ebert and analyzing their textbooks, or the little eye twitches Henderson gives her characters like when Archie’s drone crashes near Moose. Letterer Jack Morelli also acts as a non-annoying sort of laugh track punctuating Zdarsky and Henderson’s punch lines with fun and colorful sound effects.
Jughead #3 mixes a little bit of sad and little bit of surreal pop culture homage/parody/tribute/however the hell you want to read it with a whole lot of funny as Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson put the whole town of Riverdale to work as the series’ plot gets just a tad weirder. Also, Jonesy should get his own spinoff one-shot or miniseries.