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Review: ‘Jughead’s Time Police’

Jughead’s Time Police
Writer: Sina Grace
Artist: Derek Charm
$14.99; 144 pages
Rated Teen

There have been many different versions of Jughead Jones across many different media since the character first appeared in a 1941 issue of Pep Comics, but what is the most essential, most true aspect of the character? Who is Jughead, at the deepest core of his being, fictional though he may be? That’s the unstated premise of writer Sina Grace and artist Derek Charm’s Jughead’s Time Police, which answers that question in a wild plot that involves many of those different versions of Jughead meeting.

If you know anything at all about Jughead, then it is probably that he is Archie’s best friend and that he loves food, particularly burgers, and those most basic facts are clue enough to what Grace comes up with as Jughead’s surprisingly earnest and heart-felt  revelations of the meaning of life, stated variously as their story reaches its climax, but perhaps most succinctly as: “There’s nothing better than hanging out with your friends and eating good food.”

The miniseries-turned-graphic novel takes its name and inspiration from a late-eighties, early-nineties feature that ran through various Archie Comics, written by Rich Margopoulos. In those comics, Jughead was recruited into the ranks of the Time Police by Marshal January McAndrews, Archie’s descendant from the 29th Century (and who resembled a female Archie). Using a special, high-tech version of his signature beanie, Jughead was able to travel through time, and together he and January would solve various threats to the integrity of the time stream, often using the sorts of Hollywood time travel logic that can drive one crazy if one thinks about it too long. They also struck up a sort of tragic romance, as they were separated by centuries, and it seemed the only time they had together that didn’t involve the saving of the universe was when Jan would kiss Jughead goodbye (this was during one of the relatively rare periods of the character’s existence when he wasn’t completely disinterested in romance of any kind).

In Grace and Charm’s version, Jughead messed up the Pendleton family lemon meringue pie he entered into the Riverdale pie contest (by accidentally adding fish oil) and not only lost but was banned from ever participating again. For life. After days of moping, he comes up with the only sensible solution: He’s just going to have to invent a time machine and go back in time to prevent himself from messing up. So he does. (Dilton Doiley helps, of course.)

That attracts the attention of January McAndrews, who whisks him to the 29th Century to show him around before she fixes his timeline and wipes his memories, but, in a shocking revelation, there’s another, evil Jughead already in the 29th Century—the original Jughead from 1941, drawn by Charm and colored by Matt Herms to look like he just stepped out of an old issue of Pep. This Jughead has convinced January that our Jughead is the  evil one, and soon he is on the run through history, with the Time Police giving chase.

As the story progresses and Jughead ’41’s full plan is revealed, our Jughead and a grizzled, time-travelling futuristic version of himself find themselves facing off against a small army of Jugheads, including the werewolf version from the mature readers Jughead: The Hunger, the version played by Cole Sprouse on the Riverdale TV show, the Superteens’ Captain Hero, the Li’l Jughead from Li’l Archie and so on.

Charm’s work is always great, and he’s had plenty of practice drawing the “New Riverdale” version of the Archie cast, thanks to a 10-issue run on the short-lived 2015-2017 Jughead ongoing series, but here he and Herms outdo themselves, with the various Jugheads all looking like they were drawn by different artists, and the Riverdale version looking about as close to a real human being appearing in an Archie Comics as you could get without someone like Alex Ross painting him in.  Charm even includes a Jughead from the Jughead series that looks just like the work of Erica Henderson, the artist who preceded him on the title.

While the sequence is showy, it’s not just there just for show, and it actually makes up relatively little of the overall story line. A good chunk of the story at the beginning and end have nothing to do with time travel, as Grace and Charm lay out just who Jughead is and why he’s so content with his friends, his hometown and the simple pleasure of food.

If there’s anything a reader might complain about, it might be that January McAndrews gets relatively short shrift in the story, as rather than acting as Jughead’s partner, she spends much of the book’s page count as the villainous Jughead’s dupe, and he’s not too terribly shy when it comes to expressing his disdain for her. Perhaps if Grace and Charm ever do a sequel, we’ll get to see more of January, and in a better light.

In the meantime, there’s always the classic Jughead’s Time Police, all of which Archie Comics collected into a digest-sized 225-page trade paperback and released two years back. It includes the entire 1990 six-issue Jughead’s Time Police series and other stories featuring Jughead, January, and the Time Police from 1988-1991, all drawn in the classic Archie style and all perfectly suitable for all-ages readers. The final 20 pages are devoted to 2015’s Jughead #2, by Chip Zdarsky and the previously mentioned Henderson. Presented as a dream sequence, that issue has our hero falling asleep during detention and dreaming that Archie’s descendant from the future recruits him to help her save 29th century Riv3rdal3 (“We lost the letter Es after the great vowel war of 2200,” she explains) from Rex Mantlor, Reggie’s evil descendant.

Both the 2020 collection of Grace and Charm’s Jughead’s Time Police and the 2018 collection of Margopoulos and company’s Jughead’s Time Police offer different pleasures and argue for an addendum to what Jug considers the most important things in life: Spending time with friends, enjoying good food, and reading good comics.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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