Big Ethel Energy Vol. 1 TP
Publisher: Archie Comics
Release Date: September 7, 2022
Price: $17.99
Creator(s): Keryl Brown Ahmed (Writer), Siobhan Keenan (Artist)
Format: 208 pgs., 6"x9", Full-Color, Tradepaperback
ISBN: 978- 1-6457-6889-0
Age Rating: Not listed by publisher
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

In the traditional Archie comics, Ethel Muggs was the victim of cruel humor in many of the stories in which she appeared.  Originally called “Big Ethel” because of her height, she had an ongoing crush on Jughead, who didn’t return the feelings, but would gladly feast on her food, because she was portrayed as a very good cook.

This book is almost an apology from the publisher, in that it shows Jughead and Archie as having been needlessly cruel to her... I mean, you get that from Veronica or Reggie, but that’s almost to be expected.  Archie and Jughead generally didn’t treat others as badly, so it stood out in the older stories. In this story, several years after high school, Ethel has moved out of Riverdale and is a moderately successful journalist, and she’s hired by the mayor of Riverdale to come back and write a book about the town.  She’s a little more physically attractive than when she left (and a LOT more attractive than the way she was portrayed in the old comics), but mostly she’s more confident in herself. She still doesn’t see herself as attractive, so she’s surprised when others see her that way (Jughead still doesn’t, of course, but that’s another story).

This book is about her interactions with her past, and also with her present life, which is not as fulfilling as she had hoped.

In fact, the only real problem with this book is that Archie is shown to be even more clueless than usual, both in the way he treated her as a teen, and the way he reacts to her now.  Fans of the Archie character may not like his portrayal in this book.  Otherwise, though, this is an excellent tale suited to older teens and adults, especially ones who have experienced high school’s good and bad times.

--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.