As the title implies, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” #3 is a far cry from the sitcom of the past decade and much more inline with “Afterlife with Archie,” the flagship of the Archie Horror line. As he does with that other title, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa delivers a dark tale but fills that tale with humanity, balancing both the teenage aspect of Sabrina’s existence with her witch heritage. Artist Robert Hack likewise balances the art, using modern techniques to give this comic a retro appearance.
Hack draws and colors the art in the issue, with sketchy linework providing haunting skeletal underpinnings for remarkably heavily brush-stroked color work. While I’m not sure if Hack’s process is all digital or more traditional, the pages certainly appear textured, with colors playing over drawings rather than being anchored into heavy, black outlines. The overall appearance tracks tightly with preconceived notions of what horror magazines should look like, with gritty lines, heavy shadows and undeniable colors. In some spots, Hack mutes the colors, giving the issue a faded, sun-worn appearance, while he ratchets the color up in other spots, driving home the boldness of the pure tones at play in his palette.
Aguirre-Sacasa’s cast is wide-ranging and packed with personalities that blend, bend and smash into one another. The conniving Ms. Porter plays both sides against the middle in Sabrina and Harvey’s relationship, working a wedge between the duo that would set plotlines of a dozen old-school romance comics in motion for years worth of stories. The writer makes it clear that Porter has it out for Sabrina, and it all leads to a dynamic cliffhanger that appears set to forever change the outcome of the characters involved. Letterer Jack Morelli works in lock-step with Aguirre-Sacasa, dropping bits of conversation into parentheses or dotting the word balloon’s frame for whispered tones.
The writer bounces between a past episode and present-day (which, for this comic, is 1967), layering history into Sabrina’s story the way Hack layers colors over his drawings. Through the alternating tales, readers learn about Sabrina’s aunts, Hilda and Zelda, their belief in their religion and the ceremonies surrounding Sabrina’s choice as she enters adulthood.
“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” #3 makes no pretense with the story’s metaphors and the title character’s journey. The choice between mortality and life as a witch, between taking the next step with her boyfriend or abstaining, between sassing her co-star in “Bye Bye Birdie” or taking the high road, and the rest of these developments shape who Sabrina is and who she will become. Aguirre-Sacasa, Hack and Morelli have crafted a world for Sabrina from whole cloth, defining the rituals and transformations for the reader as Sabrina herself undertakes the journey. Like Sabrina, the readers are certain to be in a different place at the end of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” #3, with even more changes on the horizon.