Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review - Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1


"Now that you ask, there's a small coven in Greendale, just starting up..."

Life as a witch brings with it equal amounts of joy and pain. The times when you're on and tapping into your abilities are great, but the times when you're being scorned for your powers and inadvertently summon unspeakable evils aren't so good. Adding those into the perils of high school just adds another layer of complexity, something that Archie Comics explores in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1. The issue is written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, illustrated by Robert Hack and lettered by Jack Morelli.

Before she was a teenage witch, Sabrina was born to a warlock father and human mother. That union proves to be problematic for Sabrina later on, as her aunts claim her because of a deal made by her father. Eventually, she ends up in Greendale and takes up residence in an abandoned funeral home. There she's joined by a talking cat named Salem and Sabrina's cousin Ambrose, preparing her to tackle possibly the scariest thing of all in high school.

Riverdale has been made famous by its most notable resident in Archie, but there are lots of other interesting characters there as well. Aguirre-Sacasa does a fantastic job shining the light on Sabrina as one of them, offering a first issue that serves as both an origin issue of sorts as well as a familiarizing of her character. Sabrina dabbles in the dark arts much like any other growing witch would do and the progression of the issue is a great chronology of developmental milestones. There are some rather humorous events, such as telepathy on a young birthday and an aunt scaring a bully, but that doesn't prevent Aguirre-Sacasa from venturing into the darker corners of witchcraft. And that's really where Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 excels most, offering up a tale that's equally as dark in tone as it's light in humor.

Considering the enduring appeal of a character like Sabrina, Hack does a great job of maintaining a balance between what everyone remembers her looking like and what a slightly more modern take looks like. Hack relies on a lot of pretty harsh shading throughout, which gives the book an eerie atmosphere. It's almost as if you're watching a horror movie, where you know something bad is going to happen. Being able to convey that tension through the art reflects talent in Hack, as he clearly knows how to translate that unease into illustrations. The panel layouts feel old-fashioned in a sense as well, standing amidst empty gutters to emphasize the wide array of character looks contained within.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 is a very deliberate first issue that knows exactly what it wants from itself and the reader. The story is a great introduction to the character for those who aren't as familiar with him, while also eliciting some acknowledging smirks from readers a bit more in the know about her troubled life. Aguirre-Sacasa clearly understands Sabrina and what makes her tick, imbuing her with the right blend of youthful naivety and fascination with her powers. Hack's illustrations are the perfect fit for the content of the story as it taps into the calm that accompanies impending evil. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 is a strong first issue that features a little something of everything mixed together very organically.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 is available now.

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