The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: #1
Coming on the heels of the surprisingly but immensely popular Afterlife with Archie (and preceding the instant camp award contender Archie Vs. Predator) this books seems to be a more natural extension of the Riverdale universe into the horror genre. There’s already a witch in here without having to find a plot device to shoehorn it in. I don’t know much about the creative team for this series, but this first issue came with 3 variant covers, not by some hot artists at the moment, but all by the interior artist, Richard Hack, and they’re all pretty amazing. A couple of them were even die-cut in the first printing. The interior is great as well, working in a kind of ominous scratchy pen style with some halloween-esque washes of green, orange and yellow. I ended up buying two of the different covers (by accident) but the one that makes me smirk a little every time I see it is the one that is a pretty great homage to Polanski Rosemary’s Baby poster, which is a movie I love because it still freaks me out to this day. It’s not so much the “giving birth to the devils baby” (spoiler…sorry) aspect that freaks me out, its the whole middle part of the movie where Rosemary slowly realizes that everyone in her life is not only not able to help her, but they all seem to be actively working to deceive or betray her when she’s in a very vulnerable state.
The intro to this story has a bit of that betrayal feeling as we see a bit of Sabrina’s Origin Story. Her parents, a mortal mother and a witch of a father, are finding out why witch and human love is not permitted, or rather, the consequences of betraying that edict. The story is heartbreaking, but the result is having Sabrina live in exile with her aunts. This is where the story picks up the elements that are common between the old Archie era Sabrina, the Melissa Joan Hart era and this current incarnation. We have the crazy witch aunts, Salem, the talking cat who is her familiar and more of the devil on the shoulder than the angel. The same setting that made for weekly campy sit com fun serves to ramp us into a potentially very spooky story here.
I have to say, I had a very soft spot for the Melissa Joan Hart version, but that was a post-Saved By The Bell world and now we’re living in a post-Buffy/Angel/Harry Potter world where we’ve learned that smart writing and and a legitimate spooky story can have mass appeal across generations, often driven by a youth market. Imagine that television show written as a counterpoint to Buffy with more witches and forbidden love and how great that could have been. The impact of Buffy wasn’t realized at the time as the show fought for its low ratings life on more than one occasion, but I don’t think many serious TV people could deny its impact all these years later as every network has at least a couple marginally supernatural show if not full on werewolves and witches shows. Maybe the reboot happy, comic book cannibalizing entertainment industry will see this and take another crack at Sabrina. I’m sort of convincing myself to take a crack at it if no one owns the option on it yet (I’m sure they do).
While we do see this Sabrina going to school and flirting with boys, just like her TV counterpart, we see her and her family engaging in some much darker forms of witchcraft. We’re talking blood magic instead of spells to help you get your homework done faster so that you can go get a malt with Harvey. I already have the next couple issues of this in my to-be-read box and I look forward to seeing where it’s going to go. Given the source material and the human/witch love warning we’re given in the first few pages, I think we can see where it’s going, but I doubt this story is going to be the sappy family friendly TV allegory that tries to convince us that the right thing to do is to work hard and be honest even when you can just force your will upon the world with some powdered newt mixed up in a cauldron. It’s certainly more appealing to someone like myself to read this kind of story than something like the TV show that felt like the writers sat down with a lesson they wanted to teach us about living a moral lifestyle every week and wrote backwards from the “knowing is half the battle” moment. If you’ve ever been the had the hard time deciding if your be the cop or the or thought Lex Luthor seemed more fun that Superman, then you know the kind of stories I’m talking about. It feels much more rewarding to explore the dark thoughts that come up when you think “what would I do if I had magic powers” than it is to have someone give you the “great power comes with great responsibility” speech yet again. When I think about the TV of my childhood, and the pre-Watchmen code era comics I was exposed to, it’s no wonder that splatter horror movies and and gritty Rambo style heros worked themselves into my entertainment diet along with a strong desire to devour any foreign entertainment (Akira, Robotech, Heavy Metal, weirdo Ralph Bakshi movies and even Monty Python) I could get my hands on. Something that told a different kind of story than the sappy morality play I probably didn’t realize I was being fed at the time.
This comic was read at home on 12/27/2014 (merry Christmas)