by Robert Aguirre-Sacasa & Robert Hack
Do you remember the ABC show Sabrina The Teenage Witch starring Melissa Joan Hart? If you are a late 80’s child like myself, it must have played some role in your after school routine when you were 12. It had many of the same beats that would soon make the Harry Potter books a huge success. Sabrina’s aunt Hilda was played by the hilarious Caroline Rhea, and her aunt Zelda was played by the charming Beth Broderick. My school night wouldn’t be the same without a little Sabrina Spellman in it. Well, this comic book is not that show. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack have taken the fun supernatural side of Archie Comics, and stripped it down to the terrifying witchcraft elements that linger just below the surface. It is like the difference between Teen Wolf and Silver Bullet. One uses a supernatural mythology to add a fun spin on a rather mundane story; the other focuses on the truly terrifying details of the unnatural world. This is the beauty of the diverse range of the horror genre. There can exist an after school special staring a teenage witch, and there can exist a terrifying comic based on the same character. One is a guilty pleasure for a 12 year old, while the other keeps a 31 year old man up at night.
If you haven’t been reading Sabrina don’t worry, I’ll quickly catch you up to the prior events. Sabrina’s boyfriend Harry has died. Sabrina is not pleased with this so she works with another witch to raise Harry from the dead. Unbeknownst to her, the body of Harry has actually been occupied by the spirit of Sabrina’s damned father, Edward. Let’s call him Harward. Harward is a very bad dude and has already started killing members of the Greendale community, not to mention the more perverse side of him wants to fuck his daughter. There is some seriously disturbing Stephen King’ish shit going on here. But, again that is the beauty of what makes this book so good. Greendale and Sabrina were such innocent visions in my head before this comic came around. Now Aguirre-Sacasa and Hack have replaced those innocent thoughts with demons, terror, murder and incest. Well played my friends.
If you are like me and forgot one major detail from the last issue, then your experience reading may have gone something like this, “Why won’t Harry kiss Sabrina? I understand he isn’t the same person since he was raised from the dead but he says he wants to kiss her, he even wants to go to a hotel room with her but doesn’t… just do it dude, why the hesitation? And why is he always saying to himself how proud he is of her like he is her father or something…oh wait…NOOOOOOOO!!!”
The issue kicks off with Sabrina singing and dancing in her room to the song “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels, which is so fitting I’m now convinced it was written for a situation just like this one. The opening here is a very important to the reminder because Sabrina is going to oppose and ignore every single persons warning her about raising someone from the dead. Sabrina is so blinded by her excitement of having Harry back that she will later fight her aunts just to keep him safe. After the lonely dance party and a short lecture from Ambrose we get to the pages where Sabrina sees Harward for the first time. His perverse thoughts bleed off the page and into the pit of my stomach. This fucked up scenario is so uniquely disturbing I literally cannot stop reading it. I must know how things turns out. Will Sabrina keep pushing herself on Harward thinking it’s Harry Will Harward finally give in because it’s evil disgusting Edward underneath? I must know! Unfortunately we don’t get a final answer in this issue.
In the middle of the will-they-won’t-they father daughter moment, Sabrina has an encounter with Jughead who conjures a quick vision as he walks by. In her vision, he is a zombie and she becomes the harbinger of Chtulhu, much like in Afterlife With Archie, which puts this book in a parallel universe with Afterlife.
Sabrina and Harry are chilling at the Greendale/Riverdale diner when Hilda and Zelda show up. They turn into some scary ass demon witch creatures and decide it is time to take matters into their own hands and send Harry back to the grave by summoning a bunch of psychopomps; the creatures responsible for ferrying the dead from Earth to afterlife. The result is the battle of Sabrina vs the aunts. We really get to see Sabrina use some cool spells here, and even employ some pretty decent fighting tactics. Robert Hack brings such a perfectly eerie tone to the book, at times making the characters look innocent and endearing but at the flip of a page, transforming them into the creatures of my nightmares. He is particularly fantastic in this long fight between Sabrina and the aunts. The fight takes up half the book and is hauntingly exhilarating through every panel.
In the end everyone gets off of Sabrina’s back and lets her keep her dadfriend. However, if she wants Harry to stay then someone will have to take his place. Balance must always be restored when it comes to the universe, so Sabrina will have to kill someone who is not supposed to die. I wonder if she is going to consult with Kill or Be Killed’s Dylan. I feel like he would have some good tips and pointers for her.
Sabrina #8 was a well crafted issue from start to finish. The creative team made sure to take a messed up situation and make us all feel extremely uncomfortable reading it. This is exactly the goal of horror, to make you squirm in your chair, and boy I did me some squirmin’. Teen drama, a witch throw down and an estranged deranged father inside a dead boyfriend’s body. Great issue.