Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Comic and TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Sabrina the teenage witch gets a bloody makeover.

Chilling Tales of Sabrina

In 1962, Sabrina the Teenage Witch appeared as an Archie Comics spinoff.

Sabrina, 1962

This was the basis for the 1990s TV show starring Melissa Joan Hart. I never watched more than a few minutes of it; it was a silly, light sitcom for tweens.

In the past few years, Archie comics have gotten darker and edgier. Chilling Tales of Sabrina is a ghastly reboot, and I don't particularly mean that as a compliment.

Sabrina on a goat

Sabrina Spellman is just a normal 1960s teenager, except that her aunts worship the Devil and practice cannibalism. Being a half-breed daughter of a warlock and a human mother, Sabrina gets to choose whether or not to sign her name in the Dark Lord's book on her 16th birthday. Just as she's about to do so, her boyfriend, high school football star Harvey Kinkle, comes running through the woods to interrupt the ritual.

Harvey and Sabrina

Evangelical Christians are known for getting their knickers in a twist over pop culture glorification of witchcraft. There were the churches who burned Harry Potter books, the fundies who declared that Dungeons & Dragons is Satanic.

Chilling Tales of Sabrina seems like the kind of thing designed to punch all their buttons. It's got incest, bestiality, rape, murder, cannibalism, black masses, baby sacrificing, and of course, Satan.

The juxtaposition of Sabrina being caught up in normal high school drama while her aunts are cheerfully encouraging her to sign her soul away to Lucifer creates a weird dissonance in tone that doesn't quite work. The comic is violent and gory, with torture and dismemberment on every other page, but Sabrina is presented as cute and endearing because she's the only character with any scruples at all. I read the first few issues, in which Sabrina falls in love with Harvey, gets stalked by a succubus named Madam Satan who was summoned by Bettie and Veronica (really — in this universe, all the Riverdale kids are witches too) and engineers multiple bloody murders, and ends up raising her boyfriend from the dead, only for his body to be possessed by her dead father, who sent her mother to an insane asylum after she prevented him from sacrificing Sabrina when she was an infant.

It's pretty dark, but that does not prevent it from being rather silly. Also, I can't say I thought much of Robert Hack's art. (He does the coloring as well as pencils.) While he captured the retro style of pre-Comics Code Authority EC Horror comics, he doesn't seem to have much control over anatomy or facial expressions. Many of the poses looked traced to me, and he couldn't keep the same characters' faces consistent from one panel to the next.

Betty and Veronica

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is very crude, retro horror of the sort that alarmed Fredric Wertham and Jerry Falwell, but ultimately, the story isn't that clever and it certainly isn't original.

The Netflix show based on the comic series borrows most of the characters (minus the Riverdale cast), but sets it in the modern day, making it much more diverse in the process. Although still a fairly dark series (and still with enough Satanic content to give fundies fits), they left out some of the ruder bits, like Sabrina's aunts eating corpses, and her dad being a villain who almost hooks up with her in her boyfriend's body.

The show was most entertaining in the first season. In the second and third, they got ahead of the comic, became a little too Riverdale in the ridiculous melodrama department, and the demons in latex masks went from horrific to comedy relief. It makes for a fun Halloween binge-watch, though.

My complete list of book reviews.
Tags: graphic novels, horror, netflix, reviews

Posts from This Journal “graphic novels” Tag

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened