Lovecraftian teenage drama.
|Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and art by Robert Hack & Jack Morelli.|
A few days ago, the fourth and final part of Netflix’s ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ dropped online. To celebrate, I want to take a look at the comic book series that served as the shows direct inspiration. What makes the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina series stand out (and receive some backlash) from other Sabrina medium is its tone. It’s very dark, not afraid to dig into ‘traditional’ witch lore and blood rituals and the like. What most people don’t know however is that this tone is not an invention of the series, but rather of a comic book also called Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The history of the book is a bit turbulent.
The first issue was released in October (get it) 2014 as part of ‘Archie Horror’ and ran for 8 issues before getting cancelled. I say ‘cancelled’ here but a more fitting would be 'got delayed into oblivion'. The series did run long enough for its first story-arc to wrap and get collected in a trade though. That’s what I’ll be reviewing today, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Vol. 1: The Crucible.
Let’s dive in.
The Crucible tells the same basic story as that of the pilot episode of the series. 15-year old Sabrina Spellman, daughter of the Warlock Edward Spellman and the mortal Diana eagerly awaiting her upcoming 16th birthday. On that day, she will have her dark-baptism and must decide between the human and witch-world. Between her boyfriend Harvey Kinkle and her magic powers.
I’m purposely keeping the plot of the book very, very vague. While reading it, you might think that the story is one-to-one with the series. Nothing could be further from the trough, however. For starters, while the series invokes a very 60’s/70’s feel its clearly set in modern times. The comics series, however, is just straight up set during the ’50s and ’60s. This gives the entire book a different undertone and actually works quite well, even if it does lead to some… odd moments we shall say. Other changes in the story include the characters having different ethnicities and personalities like with Ambrose and Rosalind (remember: this comic series came first) and a much closer connection to Archie and his gang from Riverdale. While the series has teased a Riverdale crossover many times it has never come to pass. So for those of you who crave such a crossover, this book might just scratch that itch for you.
While the basics are the same the way the story moves about from that point forward is very different. The dark atmosphere and occult influences of the series have nothing on that of the comic which takes these elements even further. The book’s imagery is, for instance, much more graphic than that of the series. More outlandish and creepy designs, more blood and all in all more graphic than the series. Makes sense. It’s much easier for a comic to implement such outlandish designs as they don’t have any expensive CG to deal with. If the series was already pushing it for you when it came to this, I don’t this the comic is for you. This all leads to a story that’s quite different then any other Sabrina story, different then any story I’ve personally ever read, to be honest, that’s has quite a few twists and turns along the way. That last one especially actually makes me pretty sad that the series never made it past eight issues. I really wanted to see what this creative team would do with it.
Time to dig in some of the more ‘technical’ qualities of the book. The art, writing, lettering etc. I already talked about art before, so let’s begin with that one. The artwork is stunning though definitely an acquired taste. It’s intricate, detailed, imaginative and graphic when it needs to be. The tone and atmosphere of the book wouldn’t work half as well if not for the art. It’s also very dark (in colouring) and the style of the artwork also means that some panels can look rather ugly. This is often by design, I admit, but that didn’t change the fact that I found the art unpleasant at times. The art is good, but might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
|For all the creepyness the art brings along with it, there are also some really goofy moments at times as well!|
The writing is good, no doubt about it. While I do think that there’s a bit too many dialogue boxes/ a bit too much exposition at times that really the only complaint I can throw at it. The writing is pleasant, even when the story itself gets very dark, so you’ll be able to read through it no problem. The writing also manages to throw in a ton of references, nods and winks to other franchises and the horror genre in general. It’s not just Riverdale, I also saw a pretty clear reference to the Evil Dead franchise for example. If you’re much more of a fan of the Horror genre than me, I’m certain you’ll be able to spot many more.
I feel that I’ve been a bit more critical of this book (or comic books depending on how you read this story) than praising. That’s not to say that the book is bad, just that I feel the book’s problems and my nit-picks are things that I feel can be really off-putting to some. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Vol. 1: The Crucible is a really good book. The writing and art are both very good, the story is compelling if not a bit on the depressing side and the entire thing is quite unique. You won’t find a book quite like this, well, anywhere I feel and that’s a definite good thing.
If you’re not put off by the dark tone, the graphic nature and sometimes depressing nature and the style of artwork I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to you. If you’re a fan of the series especially, even if the changes do take some time getting used to.