Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #9
Content warning: sexual assault
After four years and full television adaptation run, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack‘s slow burn, 1960s-set horror comic Chilling Adventures of Sabrina returns. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #9 is actually part three in the “Witch War” storyline, but a cheeky cover and recap page get readers back on track as everyone’s favorite white haired teenage witch is in the direst strait. Using necromancy with the help of her teacher Mrs. Porter (Aka Madam Satan), she brought back her boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle from the dead. However, the spell messed up, and her manipulative, deadbeat conjuror dad, Edward Spellman, is actually in Harvey’s body and enjoying life as teenager while also figuring out what happened to him. Sabrina isn’t aware of this and must take a life to balance out Harvey’s return according to her aunts Hilda and Zelda.
This quest for a soul is the main plotline of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #9 as Aguirre-Sacasa and Hack don’t hold back from going dark and creepy. Sabrina’s target is actually a serial killer, who recently appeared in the Netflix show Mindhunter, but Aguirre-Sacasa withholds this fact for most of the comic and builds tension by Sabrina acting like everything is normal when nothing is. Robert Hack’s opening six panel page is a study in guilt as he uses a different pose in each frame to show how Sabrina is before settling on a close-up of her face and downcast eyes. This contrasts with the cheery facial expression she has in the very next page and combined with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s small talk dialogue, you can definitely tell that something is up, and she’s seriously considering killing someone. And this ends up being true as the second half of the book leaves the friendly confines of Greendale for somewhere a bit more populous, and Aguirre-Sacasa and Hack show the lengths that Sabrina is willing to go to make sure that her boyfriend stays for good.
The B-plot of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #9 follow Edward in Harvey’s body, and he acts like a horny teenager sleeping with both his old demon buddy Empusa (Who shapeshifted into Lucifer so he could gain power in the Church of Night.) and Rosalind, who is Harvey’s ex-girlfriend. There is a lot of sleaziness and statutory rape going on, and Aguirre-Sacasa’s narration is self-aware enough not to linger on either of these moments and keep the ball rolling to the inevitable showdown, the titular witch war between Edward and Madam Satan. I love when Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack switch to Madam Satan’s wonderfully chaotic and villainous POV as she basks naked in a tub and ponders whether she wants to fuck, marry, or kill her ex-lover Edward Spellman. She also reveals that she wanted to bring Edward back all along, and this combination of lust and revenge makes for riveting reading shifting the tone from sex pest in action to a supernatural erotic thriller. Madam Satan having no eyes adds to the air of mystery.
What I missed most about Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was the horror paperback aesthetic-meets-clear sequential storytelling visuals of Robert Hack. His coloring is top notch in this comic with lots of reds and oranges to show that basically every main character in this issue deserves damnation. This hellish palette is a constant in the book and wavers slightly depending on the lighting of the panels, but it can be found everywhere from the janitor’s closet to a supermax prison cell showing that evil and manipulation is everywhere. It gives the book an extra level of tension to go with the demons, witches, and serial killers. In addition to this, Robert Hack excels at making dark magic look cool from Sabrina teleporting from a Greyhound bus to the black lines in the background that turn a teenage witch into an angel of Death.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #9 is a solid return for one of the best horror comics of 2010s. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack don’t shy away from putting their heroine through the moral wringer in this issue and continue their unified field theory of horror approach by adding serial killer to the mix with the usual supernatural denizens of the series. The scenes featuring Edward Spellman are pretty unsettling too, but don’t overwhelm the issue thanks to the longer panel time for Sabrina (and Salem the mouse) and Madam Satan.
Story: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art: Robert Hack Letters: Jack Morelli
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.9 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy
Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review