Rating: 5/5 – After All the Hype – Everything I Hoped For and More.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.
While the Afterlife with Archie version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch deals with her own Lovecraftian problems, Chief Creative Officer of Archie Comics and Afterlife scribe Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa brings us a different, reimagined tale of Sabrina in his new series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. In what Aguirre-Sacasa dubs a different “horror-verse” from the events unfolding in Afterlife, he takes this loveable witch that has been part of Archie lore since 1962 and reinvents the character and her origin in a tale that certainly lives up to the title. My hype meter was nearing overload waiting for this book to hit the stands, and while anticipation of this level typically leads to disappointment, I can say unequivocally that this first issue was everything I hoped for and more. In addition to the main story, this issue is packed with bonus material, including a reprint of Sabrina’s first appearance in Archie Madhouse #22 and character designs and ideas by artist Robert Hack.
This inaugural issue immediately makes it clear that Aguirre-Sacasa is weaving a dark and sinister tale. Gone are many of the whimsical and humorous overtones associated with Archie stories (even the few found in Afterlife with Archie), to be replaced by what essentially is a straight horror piece. While this book is indeed “chilling,” Aguirre-Sacasa also manages to make it very much dreadful, disturbing, horrific, and grotesque. And that’s just the few first pages! Throughout the issue, Aguirre-Sacasa takes many of the classic horror genre themes and re-imagines them in ways that I thought were fresh and original. He even pays homage to horror tales of yesteryear by sprinkling in references and names that had me googling to find out where I’ve heard them before. It’s an added touch that shows Aguirre-Sacasa really loves what he is writing. By the time we see Sabrina starting high school we see how it can be just as terrifying and alienating for a new girl whether she’s a witch or a mere mortal. The difference is Sabrina has the power to change things, even as fate decides otherwise (fate working through a couple of surprise appearances that really put a smile on my face).
The art by Robert Hack can be described with a litany of adjectives: stunning, dramatic, and striking to name a few. This is a period piece set in the 1960s and Hack’s art truly captures the time period, while simultaneously setting a mood that left me feeling unsettled. A close look at numerous panels reveals minute details that add to the creepiness factor and some of the panel borders themselves express exactly what the featured character feels. At every turn I felt like any spine-chilling thing could happen and it had as much to do with the writing as it did with the art. Francesco Francavilla has become synonymous with Afterlife with Archie and now Robert Hack will forever be the Sabrina artist for me.
With Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa continues to push the limits of what I thought could ever be in an Archie comic. He doubles down on many of the elements that have made Afterlife with Archie successful and creates a first issue that not only rivals the genius of what he did with Afterlife, but in many respects surpasses it. Together with the stunning art by Robert Hack, Archie Comics has another hit on their hands and I can’t wait to see what else they have in store for Sabrina as this compelling story unfolds. This definitely ranks as one of the best comics I’ve read this year.
Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
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