Comic Book Review: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #5

FINALLYYYY The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is back from hiatus with its long-awaited follow-up to last year’s cliffhanger fourth issue! Hitting the shelves on May 18, Sabrina #5 chronicles the aftermath of the murder of Harvey Kinkle following his unfortunate wrong turn into dark-ceremony territory (putting a new spin on the old “I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you” credo).
In between rehearsals for their high-school production of Macbeth, typecast young witches Betty and Veronica are enlisted by Madam Satan to help secure Sabrina’s innocence as she stands trial for her purported collusion with Harvey, which she steadfastly denies. During Sabrina’s trial, several flashbacks occur detailing her father Edward’s appeal to the witches’ council for permission to marry her mortal mother. Following the trial Sabrina is whisked away to join “Ms. Porter,” Betty and Veronica in the woods of Greendale to fulfill the teacher’s promise to help Sabrina resurrect her lost love from the dead (after all, having summoned Madam herself from beyond by sheer accident in Sabrina #2, the young witches of Riverdale are experienced at reversing death). Unbeknownst to Sabrina, who believes she is on track to getting Harvey back, she is a mere pawn in Madam Satan’s diabolical plot to have her wicked way once and for all.
I was never a very big fan of the classic Sabrina comics growing up (sue me, revoke my Archie fan club membership, whatever. I never watched the TV show either. And? What?), but I am a huge fan of the new series–it’s suspenseful, wit-infused, classic-yet-modern horror fun. I literally curse aloud at the end of each issue because it’s one of those books that leaves you desperately wanting more at the end, which is everything a reader could want in a monthly (-ish?) series. Needless to say, this latest installment does not disappoint in the slightest. Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (an Archie Comics mainstay) gives good story as usual, rife with twists and turns (usually for the worst), hints of black comedy and occasional scares without succumbing to silliness, predictability or done-to-death horror tropes. It may be a tale of a high-school sorceress in love, but Teen Witch it is not. (Top THAT.)
In every issue of the new [improved] Sabrina we are also treated to Robert Hack’s gorgeous artwork. The flashback sequences in this latest issue stand out in particular in my mind; the grey and sepia tones and sparing use of color reinforce the old-movie aesthetic of the series overall. The antique quality of Hack’s distinctively painterly panels, with their background brush-stroke textures and subtly expressive characters, support and enhance Aguirre-Sagasa’s capable storytelling. Their collaboration on this series is second to none; the respective media at work here are so in tune, one could easily assume the writer and artist were one and the same.
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One noteworthy aspect of this issue is that it features a sneak preview of the upcoming return of popular horror-comedy series Afterlife With Archie (IT’S ABOUT TIME, GODDAMMIT). The excerpt features a hilarious spoof of the long-running Highlights For Children morality cartoon Goofus and Gallant, starring Archie and Reggie Mantle in the title roles. Reggie is, in fact, the star of the entire preview, which ends up being something of a brief but fascinating character study. Fans can expect the new issue of Afterlife on June 1.
There’s not much else I can say except this: If you like mystery comics or scary books but don’t read this series, start. If you do read it and don’t have this issue, get it immediately. Collectively, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina remains a timeless instant classic, one for the annals of contemporary horror.

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