"Sabrina #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Archie Comics
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Illustrated by Robert Hack
2014, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on October 8th, 2014
After an insanely successful jump back into horror waters with Afterlife with Archie, Archie Comics expands its genre line with Sabrina. The new book does not tie into the aforementioned Archie title. Instead, it's a new take on the teenage witch, set in the 1960s showing Sabrina growing up with strange powers. The comic opens with the warlock Edward Spellman stealing his infant daughter from the hands of her mother Diana, a mortal woman. There are hints to some dark dealings that ultimately leave Diana in a shattered mental state. What follows are quick snippets of Sabrina growing up in the care of her two aunts Hilda and Zelda until she reaches her teenage years.
What's immediately evident in Sabrina (as was the case with Afterlife with Archie) is the serious tone of the book. Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa could have easily played this idea for laughs, poking fun at the concept and making references to the TV show starring Melissa Joan Hart. Instead, this is handled like a legit horror comic that happens to star this popular character.
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The overall feel of Sabrina harkens back to the strange supernatural films of the 1970s, especially The Omen. There's this sense of dread looming throughout the issue, like something is just not right. This young girl is capable of truly amazing things, but there's a darkness inside her that has been growing despite the best intentions of her aunts. She lashes out when her father doesn't show up for her sixth birthday, creating a telepathic whirlwind in her living room that sends everything, including her aunts, up in the air.
Although Hilda and Zelda are demon-worshiping witches, they have a deep love for their niece. They want what's best for her and are willing to uproot their entire lives and move to a new town if it means that Sabrina will have an easier time growing up. They do their best when it comes to raising the girl, but teenagers are prone to doing stupid things without thinking through the consequences.
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Robert Hack's artwork fits the tone and setting of Sabrina perfectly. As the book takes place in the 1950s and 1960s, Hack matches up not only the character's style but the actual artwork to that time period. If you had just found this book buried somewhere years from now, you would think it was decades old. Sabrina's home life is almost normal, like this could be any American girl in any small town in the country. This amplifies the terror when something truly frightening happens, such as Hilda's reaction to a young girl that's been bullying Sabrina in school.
Sabrina is a perfect addition to the Archie Comics horror line and a welcome companion to Afterlife with Archie. It paints a very different picture of the teenage witch that we've known for all these years and makes witches scary again. There are also ties to some other characters in this universe and the setup of a downright terrifying monster that will be explored in some future issues.