Written by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by: Robert Hack
Lettering by: Jack Morelli
Even if you’re a new arrival to the, well, new Archie Horror imprint and its associated titles, you have probably still heard of Afterlife With Archie and the The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Despite Sabrina (the teenage witch)’s prevalence in both titles and the fact that they share a writer, the immensely talented Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Sabrina is itself a standalone series distinct from Afterlife, and issue #4 brings forth its A-Game to show us readers what really makes Sabrina special. We have been following Sabrina’s path through mortal teenage adolescence in the 1960s, wrought with the trials (pun perhaps intended) you would expect for a girl that’s just turned sixteen and a young half-witch who is still coming to understand her heritage. Issue #3 had her choosing between her family, embracing a life as a witch thereafter, immortality, being bound to Satan’s (yes, Satan) eternal power and bursting with innumerable brilliant abilities of her own, or to live as a mortal, to fall in love normally and age and die.
Her aunts had been preparing her for this day for years, and the only thing seeming to stand in the way of Sabrina decisively embracing her birthright is her cute mortal boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle. Harvey, Sabrina tells us, was not “the boy,” he was Harvey — but also he was “the” boy, she loved him the way other witches seem unable to and she saw what could have been a life ahead with him instead of the nightmare life has been sense the night of her initiation. Harvey makes a brash mistake, and he doesn’t leave the woods that night in the same shape that he entered them.
Thick with lore and history, Sabrina is simply beautiful from top to bottom, story and art. Aguirre-Sacasa has been doing wonderful things with this re-imagining of Sabrina’s story, taking the Spellman’s back to their occult roots for better or for worse. We see the haunting creatures these witches can become, the unforgivable and unfeeling things they are capable of, and we see Sabrina face the brunt of the consequences for what she feels may be her own brash mistake because unlike her aunts or even her cousin Ambrose, she can love and she can grieve. And while Sabrina struggles to cope with her emotions, further sabotage is already in the air and it’s not on her side. The emotional stakes are balanced just right, Sabrina’s conflict resonates so deeply it’s impossible not to feel a part of it, too — reading this is truly bewitching, I felt physically connected to Sabrina’s emotions in a way no other comic has ever accomplished.
Robert Hack’s stunning illustrative art evokes the genre, the era, and the themes necessary for Sabrina with raw brilliance. The dark lines and gentle hatching are matched with splashes of color, muted but when they needs to be striking, and ink-wash shadows. It’s eerie and beautiful, just the right balance to meet with Aquirre-Sacasa’s ominous and reverent dialogue. Even when it seems like something might be just too much, it somehow still isn’t; the lore may be familiar, but the way it’s utilized never undermines the horror of the environment or the emotional impact of every choice and every loss. The twist at the end of this issue may have Afterlife fans scratching their heads or leaning forward in their chairs, but the story of Sabrina is determinedly distinct enough that I can say with certainty: This is going somewhere very different, and it’s going to be extremely interesting and terrifying to see.
Also, as the previews have indicated, Betty and Veronica are in the issue. So if you’ve had any doubts about this book before now, what are you still waiting for?
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