Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, where each week one of our contributors goes crazy over a book they just can’t seem to get enough of. Intrigued to find something new? Seeking validation for your secret passions? Required Reading gets you.


by Arpad Okay. Oh boy, does Chip Zdarsky know what works in books like Jughead. Lively stories about teenagers who have the conviction to fight for what they feel is right. And Erica Henderson can put it to the page, the teenagers and the fighting. Her style is whimsical, emotive, fantastic, perfect. It matches the book’s vibe and elevates it out of what has come before by managing to capture those tiny moments of high emotion Chip puts into the script. Betty’s gas face. Wild-eyed cheeseburger adulation (been there). Mixing that with a fade to black, or making space in the panel for an empty room. It fits the bill and then some.

Erica’s work has a Hayao Miyazaki vitality to it — she draws kids who can communicate an entire world of thought with their face, especially when they’re crossing over into unencumbered fantasy. Jughead is Baron Munchausen set at Degrassi High. The Riverdale gang maintains its simple, timeless dynamic, but they’re approached with fresh eyes and ideas.

Jughead is an adventure with amicable, low-key hedonism. Loving chow is intrinsic to Jughead. But, in this book, the dynamic between Betty and Jughead is where it’s at. He is like the other vagabond master of hamburgers, J Wellington Wimpy (from Thimble Theater and Popeye), a zen monk of self-gratification strolling through the warzone that is high school social circles, repeating a mantra of Up with Burgers, Down with BS. Betty is also no BS, but she is an idealist. Betty can do. “Sensible Jughead” is the narcissist/realist. But he’s a terrible cynic; Jug says he believes in nothing but finds himself in trouble trying to make the world better. “Teach a man to fish and he’ll bring home fish, which are gross. Teach a man to make burgers and he’ll be the hero Gotham deserves!” He knows the old adages and he lives by them.

It is a magnificent work of satire, both of teen concerns and pop culture cult classics. Flat out hilarious. Way fun. As the story progresses, Chip ups the ante, keeping things fresh and exciting. Each issue has an escape: Jughead probably should see a doctor about his narcolepsy maybe, but that would keep his reveries from lancing a certain beloved TV show. Jughead in Westeros, Jughead in Time, Superspy Jughead, Lady Jughead. The more comfy we the readers become with their appearance, the zanier the fantasies get. Overlap between dreams and reality? Sure. As Jughead put it, “The narrative of our adventure demands it!” (There’s that satire again.) Jughead defends the sweetly weird from the modern austere.

Betty in a Mrs. Peel outfit high kicking the head off of a robot is the kind of thing that makes our world a richer place to live in. And that’s what Jughead does. It brings joy. Jughead starts out fun and ascends towards great. It stays light. It stays hilarious. Our hero gives up and comes back stronger. He grows up. He stays a kid. Puzzles it out. Saves the day. All the burgers. All the victories. Jughead wins.

Archie Comics / $19.99

Written by Chip Zdarsky.

Illustrated by Erica Henderson.

Colored by Erica Henderson and Andre Szymanowicz.

Lettered by Jack Morelli.