If Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was an adjustment for fans of the Melissa Joan Hart TV show, there’s a similar adjustment going from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to Archie’s new comic series, Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Fans expecting a tie-in comic to the Netflix series may be disappointed (and it’s not an unfair assumption, given season 2’s starting next week). There’s no question Sabrina’s having a moment right now (she’s also dating Archie Andrews in Archie’s flagship title) and letting different toned series based on the same characters run at the same has been something Archie’s been doing for years, but it’s still new, to see so many different iterations of Sabrina going at once.
Written by Kelly Thompson, with art by Veronica and Andy Fish, Sabrina sees Sabrina starting life at a new school. With its references to an as yet undisclosed reason for Sabrina’s transfer, the set-up is reminiscent of Buffy season one. Each spell is numbered, selling the idea that Sabrina is trying to limit her magic use. It also gives us a baseline for what casting a spell looks like (the entire panel filtered purple and pink) so when something goes wrong, you know it, while Jack Morelli flips the speech bubbles for the spells (the letters are white, the speech bubbles black) as a reminder that, while Sabrina may not be as heavy on the Satan references as Chilling, that’s still where the Spellmans’ magic comes from.
The lighter tone of Sabrina, compared to Chilling, isn’t unwelcome. Sabrina’s cat can talk and some of the fashions suggest the 60’s. Gothic horror is traded for a more folk horror sensibility, with the prominence of wood in the Spellman home. It’s a modern series but one with healthy ties to the past.
The way the first issue is structured, readers come in on Sabrina’s point of view. I really like how the Fishes’ use the gutters here to set the scene, instead of going for a solid color. From there, the issue turns back thirteen (unlucky) hours to Sabrina’s first day at Greendale High. Thompson’s Sabrina isn’t as sure footed as Kiernan Shipka’s but that only makes her more relatable, as she decides to skip Aunt Zelda’s green juice, despite its protective properties. “…you’re looking at the world beyond the porch as if it’s a hell dimension intent on swallowing you whole,” Aunt Hilda tells her. “Isn’t it?” Sabrina replies.
While issue one spends more time at school than at home (I hope future issues play with that ratio), it’s interesting to see what pushes Sabrina to use her magic and, other than cringing at a love triangle that’s already in the works, Sabrina makes for a promising first issue. With Thompson’s series, too, it’s not always the first issue that cements thing for me (with West Coast Avengers it was the second arc; with Captain Marvel, the second issue) so I’m definitely committed to seeing this series through. Thompson’s on fire right now (always, but this year unstoppably) and the Fishes are the perfect art team to make Sabrina soar.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch #1 is on sale now from Archie Comics.