It has arrived. Ethel Muggs is back in Riverdale in Big Ethel Energy Volume 2. It’s not smooth sailing, especially between her and the withdrawn and rude Jughead. Fortunately, she has plenty of friends and possibly more. There’s more to learn about Ethel and the rest of the Riverdale crew as they navigate their 20s. Big Ethel Energy Volume 2 is another book you can’t put down, and though they keep the Jughead mystery dangling, Ethel doesn’t want for attention now.
Written by Keryl Brown Ahmed, with illustrations by Siobhan Keenan, coloring by Kathy Le, and lettering by Kielamel Sibal, this second installment covers episodes 14 – 26 in the hit webtoon series. With full-color illustrations, Siobhan Keenan exquisitely renders every panel, breathing fresh life into the series and continuing where the engrossing first volume left off. Though mainly in the present, there are flashbacks to Ethel’s time in school and relationship experiences in New York City.
Big Ethel Energy Volume 2: Experiences as Youths Are Hard to Forget
One of the main focuses of the series, and prominent in Big Ethel Energy Volume 2, is the lasting effect of trauma. Ethel had a few friends in high school, but she wanted to be a part of Archie’s group, which was impossible. If it wasn’t Veronica’s offensive sizeism, it was Jughead’s downright rude attitude. Those experiences color her life and how she responds to situations later. Not only that, but it doesn’t end in high school. Ethel clarifies to her friends, who lecture her about her disbelief that Moose desires her.
Time and again, because of her size, romantic interests gave her mixed signals or treated her like a stand-in, existing like a placeholder girlfriend until they could find one. So for Ethel, she only believes it if the person clearly expresses their interest in her. Ethel understands that few people blatantly state their affections and intentions nowadays, but she cannot help how she feels. Moose may like Ethel; however, since he does not clearly state it, their potential coupling stalls.
Jealousy Might Rear Its Head
Ethel and Betty are friends, and Ethel stays with Betty. But that friendship might be tested soon. Betty has a crush on her boss, Seth, but he’s chatty and somewhat flirtatious with Ethel. Betty’s response is to sulk. But an interesting aspect is the reiteration that you must clearly state where you stand. Betty has not told Seth how she feels. Also, does liking someone entitle you to claim them as though they are property and you called “dibs?”
Betty isn’t the only one jealous of Ethel. Veronica is not thrilled she’s returned either. Though the surprise party she planned for Ethel at the end of the first volume gets canceled, that doesn’t deter Veronica from trying again. Veronica is sizeist. Nor can she stand anyone, especially one she considers beneath her, being the center of attention all the time. Hence the party so that everyone will get over the shock of Ethel. Veronica wants things to go back to a pre-Ethel return. Big Ethel Energy Volume 2 tackles awkward moments and past pain, highlighting how easy it is to fall back into ourselves.
Glimpse at Prejudice and a Learning Moment
The past also comes back to haunt Veronica. Those offensive remarks about girls’ sizes when shopping causes pushback. Ethel’s a better person than some. She understands Veronica’s not a good person, but she cares about those around her. Veronica does not understand the harm her words cause. Most celebrities and influencers have fans across appearance, culture, and size spectrum. They lose and harm an entire group with discriminatory, prejudicial language. Though as this is Veronica, it’s unclear whether she learned anything or pretends she did in order to have a redemptive arc on social media.
Big Ethel Energy Volume 2 continues Ethel’s story upon her Riverdale return. The series doesn’t wedge in discussions about prejudice and inclusivity in a ham-handed manner. It’s a natural offshoot of ranged characters. Sometimes returning to our history helps us resolve old pain. Ethel’s learning a lot about who these people are versus who they were. Big Ethel Energy Volume 2 highlights the mixed emotions and reconciliation between the then and now that going home incurs, all with an artistic flair as stylish as the mesmerizing illustrations.