There is a sheer joy in seeing something adoringly loved, family-friendly, and wholesome childhood/teenhood love re imagined as a twisted, morbid, macabre story. Absolute sheer joy and happiness. Behind all that sappy,cheesy, slap-stick comedy, lesson learning episodes exists a greater potential for story depth, complexity, and madness. This is what happens with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
I am seriously a huge scaredy cat. To this day, I cannot make it all the through the “X-files“theme song before getting chills down my back and flipping the channel. But I am still drawn to the darker side. Instead of “Brady Bunch”, I preferred”Munster” and “The Addams Family“. “Alice in Wonderland” leaves me wishing I could go into Wonderland but I am happily shedding bloodshed and hacking stuff during an hour of “McGee’s Alice” video game. Age could be attribution. I still lip synch Disney songs from my childhood, but I have also devoured every single of “Fables“. I’ll leave the reasoning of this to the psychologically learned folks. It makes me happy and that’s what I’m sticking with.
When I heard that my one of my all time favorite teen shows, “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” was being made into a dark, pulp-fiction style comic, grabby hands ensued. Gore/slasher horror throws me under the covers while singing cartoon theme songs but atmospheric dark stories like “The Cat People“, “Rosemary’s Baby“, and even the “The Fog” grabs my attention. They’re not going for jump scares. They’re going for that inner fear that makes you think twice into the shadows. What this comic brings to this beloved 90’s series is beyond the premise. The show was cute but there were tons of lapses of logic. This comic not only fill those lapses with a great story but also brings a new element. A new element called Madame Satan.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has two issues out, and it has already packed in quite a story. And has led to a fan film (see below). The basic premise that us 90 kids are familar with are there. Once Sabrina turns 16, her magic begins to manifest. She begins her witch training alongside her high school adventures. She’s dating Harvey and being taunted by the resident mean girl. Salem, the talking familar cat is still there helping along. The comic just adds satanism, murder, face-stealing, cannibalism, and manipulation. Remember, this is in just two issues.
There is a solid backstory about Sabrina’s parents. Her father was a warlock and pretty much used her mortal mother as a vessel. Instead of dying, her mother is sent to a mental asylum while Sabrina is raised by her scary aunts (so unlike the TV versions. Very trippy). What happens to her father is mysterious but very warranted.
Even with all of this horrific stuff going on, Sabrina still has to deal with high school, but this version of Sabrina deals with it in a more pragmatic way. She’s a teen witch and she’s going to use that to her advantage. Namely, nabbing teen Adonis, Harvey.
Even though the creepy level has increased by several dozen notches, I still adore this version of Hilda and Zelda (For now). They are cannibalistic and so wicked that they should have frightened me permanently. Except that when their niece comes home crying about some little witch mocking her lineage, one of the aunts simply morphs into a gigantic spider to teach that little witch a lesson. They may be witches, but familial loyalty stays strong. .
The addition of Ambrose seems to just be an added devil on the shoulder to tempt Sabrina. Sabrina hovers around the middle moral ground, but she barely hesitates to enact her witchy deeds. Ambrose may have a larger role and fit later, but for now, he doesn’t really make sense. It’s not explained why he was he sent to this household, there is only the hint that he did something really wrong.
Off on the fringes lurks a character associated with Sabrina’s parents’ past. Madame Satan has been summoned and she has one focus: exacting revenge for what a past love has done to her. Although it still seems really messed up that that’s her premise. Considering no one forced her to end her life that way. She made that decision; it’s not really fair to blame it on the guy. Granted he was a d*&k, he led her on, and broke it all off in a callous way. It just seems a bit too dramatic to end her life that way. It is a pulp style comic so there is an over-heightened sense of melodrama. Given the flimsy reason for her revenge, her methods are pretty brutal and focused. Her mission is to destroy those who wronged her. She is seriously scary. She has skulls for eyes. Skulls for eyes.
I wonder what’s going to happen to Madam Satan if she ever enacts her revenge. If she ever completes her goal, will she be at peace? Doubtful, since she committed suicide. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see her being used as a vessel for Satan to enact his dubious deeds. Speaking of the Dark Prince, aren’t the witches in this story servants to him? Would he act as a protector to the family or do they all fend for themselves? I am no practitioner of Satanism or understand much in witch ideaology but it does present some interesting questions.
Once again, this is only two issues in.
The writing is wonderful but the majority of the strength of this comic stems from the art style. The retro/pulp style aesthetic of Sabrina is a nod to the original Sabrina comics. Surrounded by all the blood, somber tones, and dramatic panels really seeps the spook factor deep in the imagination. Somehow the art balances vintage style with unsettling atmosphere. Enough that I can keep reading it all the way through, but only in the daytime. It would have been so easy for this comic to just be absolutely cheesy. The art credit goes to Robert Hack. Plus he’s drawn a lot of covers for the Doctor Who so bonus points for that.
There is a reason that there’s been several reprintings of these issues already. For fans of the 90’s show or pulp fiction or paranormal spookiness, this is a great comic to get into. There is an overload of superhero comics and movies at the moment. A distraction of witches may be welcome.
Warning, the trees will become even spookier after you have read the second issue.
Chilling Adventures Sabrina is probably available at your local comic book retailer. Most likely the print is sold out, so I would highly recommend making this pull list item.