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Friday, January 11, 2019

Comic Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Vol. 1: The Crucible

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Vol. 1: The Crucible
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa  (Author), Robert Hack (Illustrator)
August 16, 2016
160 pages
Genre: horror, fantasy, graphic novel
Publisher: Archie Comics

Now a hit Netflix series! On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the young sorceress Sabrina Spellman finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family's past has arrived in Greendale, Madame Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda. Archie Comics' latest horror sensation starts here! For TEEN+ readers.

Compiles the first six issues of the ongoing comic book series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Read the basis for Netflix's horrifying new series!

Sometimes you think you know a story. Sometimes you see that a reboot is happening and it makes you cringe. Sometimes the reinterpretation is so good, it blows all your expectations out of the water. 

My personal expectations were shattered with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comics, and I haven't looked back since. 

Disclaimer: I've only read through volume one, so I'm a few issues behind. I wanted to do this review because with the show airing, I've fielded a lot of questions on social media about where it came from and how it compares to the comics. 
Set in the sixties, the plot is somewhat similar to the show. Sabrina is raised by her aunts, in love with Harvey, and preparing for her dark baptism. There's still a balance of her being manipulated by Madam Satan vs fighting for her own sense of self. 
This version is a thousand times bleaker than the show. To start, it opens with the reveal that Sabrina's dad isn't a sympathetic figure. In the opening sequence, he gives baby Sabrina to the coven and magically lobotomizes her mother before he's trapped in a tree by her aunts. Madam Satan is his former lover, so she's more out for revenge than steering Sabrina for personal gain. 

The other big difference is that Betty and Veronica are featured characters (and witches). You still get some of Sabrina's school life, but much of the plot is fully focused on the preparation for her dark baptism (which she's pretty down with for the most part). Hilda and Zelda are there, as is Ambrose and Salem (who has a somewhat different backstory and can talk here). Rosalind is a rival instead of a friend like on the show. 
The sense of Sabrina as somewhat helpless to forces beyond her control is still here, as is her fight against that helplessness. The social aspects are a little more understated, but it reads really nicely in the sixties setting. The overall vibe is very reminiscent of The Exorcist or Rosemary's Baby. 

And then there's Harvey. Poor Harvey. 
It is pretty shocking if you go straight from the 90's show to this - there's no middle line. The witches’ cannibalism is more on display, and the overall tone is more tense and bleak than the show. 
It's extremely effective. When I first read it, it was so hard to believe these were the characters I knew...yet it all felt believable. Of course, they were the characters. Of course, this could happen in their world. It could easily function as a story on its own, but making it Sabrina really makes you stop and think about the characters and the situations they're stuck in and what that means. That shift from believability to realizing you're reading this in an Archie imprint just makes it all more bizarre and intense. There's a building dread that explodes in the baptism scene and keeps going through the final reveal in volume one. I won't give it away, but damn. 

For me, it felt like something I grew up loving could also take itself seriously in a whole new light. It's thought provoking and an uncomfortable read. While not for everyone (there's even more satanism than the show), it is a spectacular horror title and one of the better horror comics I've seen. 


About the Author:

Selah Janel is a writer who is trying to start doing that again instead of reading manga all the time.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy the reading more than the watching in this type of show. I do like the dark side of things, but cannibalism...I don't know about that. Great review.
    sherry @ fundinmental