Sabrina: Something Wicked #1
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Veronica Fish and Andy Fish
Lettering by Jack Morelli
Published by Archie Comics
Review by Joey Edsall
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The central metaphor to Sabrina the Teenage Witch, in a general sense, seems far from novel in a world where Buffy is nostalgic and the consensus seems to be that Harry Potter is actually less-than-stellar. With Sabrina: Something Wicked, writer Kelly Thompson and artists Veronica Fish and Andy Fish continue from their previous Sabrina arc in creating something that explores that flux between adulthood and childhood and reflecting it in terms of magic and mundanity.
With a real commitment to theme and characterization, Sabrina: Something Wicked #1 is a fun and thoughtful book, and one in which the COVID-19 related delays are a bit of a heartbreak.
For a story that is a direct continuation from 2019’s Sabrina limited series with the same creative team, Sabrina: Something Wicked manages to both deliver its new story and provide adequate exposition without hindering the comic’s pacing or clarity. Two of Sabrina’s classmates turn into Wendigos — one of them is a mean girl, the other one is a bad boy that she has a crush on — while Sabrina is dating Harvey, and is having a tough time balancing the two aspects of her life.
That even extends to the structure of the book: Something Wicked opens with an innocent woman being killed by supernatural means. This will obviously be an arc-relevant moment an issue or two down the line, but for a comic book with a lot of positives, this cold open not being touched on in some capacity at any other point in the book feels like a missed opportunity at building a mystery. Because the story the comic is actually interested in telling opens with Sabrina trying to reverse what she believes to be a spell that is causing Radka and Ren to transform. While the art emphasizes the extremes of both Sabrina and Radka’s emotions in this scene, writer Kelly Thompson does an exemplary job of blending comedy, character tensions, and, ultimately, heart as Radka starts to look hopeless as she asks Sabrina not to give up.
The remainder of the comic emphasizes the duality of both Sabrina and her world, a balance that this comic excels in portraying both visually and narratively. Sabrina is struggling in school, struggling with her personal relationships, and even seemingly struggling in helping Radka. She has two suitors, but no time for either Harvey nor Ren. Head Witch Della has her secret witch space behind the front of a Christmas shop. Sabrina learns about a method of magical dueling via card games, and then excitedly discusses it with her aunties. With the end of the first issue of a series approaching, readers should be accustomed to some challenge to the status quo being dropped in those final pages, and Sabrina: Something Wicked does not disappoint with the hook it latches into the audience in those closing moments.
Sabrina: Something Wicked is, above everything else, emphatically invested in dichotomies. The magic world, regular world. Sabrina the Teenager, Sabrina the Witch. Ren the Hunky Wendigo, Harvey the Hunky Jock. When readers first meet Sabrina in this series, the first thing she talks about is the binary opposition in an excellent sequence where the art completely reinforces this notion. Sabrina’s narration paired with her standing over a burning cauldron in the middle of the forest immediately calls to mind the Weird Sisters of Macbeth, with Sabrina herself being drawn more in the style of Red Riding Hood, especially considering she’s paired with Radka, who in her Wendigo form is a dangerous beast of the woods. Every iteration of this character has had this dichotomy as a thematic backbone, but between last year’s mini-series and this opening issue, Thompson might be the best at making it a pervasive part of the entire world of the story. It’s impressive how much thematic work the entire creative team was able to pack into the book without making it remotely obtuse.
Veronica and Andy Fish’s contributions to Thompson’s Sabrina stories can’t be overstated. With how visually striking the Chilling Adventures books were, Veronica and Andy Fish’s character designs, backgrounds, and coloring provide both an excellent balance of mood throughout the story and an always pleasant pastel goth aesthetic. This is a visual style that embraces shadows and darkness where needed, but knows how much pinks, purples, and light blues add to the feeling the book is trying to evoke. The two moments in the comic that most exemplify this are the opening, where there is far more purple in the midnight woods than black, and a stellar aerial view panel of Sabrina researching that wouldn’t look out of place as the thumbnail of one of those lo-fi hip-hop beats to study/relax/conduct necromancy to videos. Some of the facial expressions can skew on the over-exaggerated side of things, but it always keeps a light-hearted center.
It’s a shame we won’t have this book for awhile after this issue. There’s a hundred stories like this in the comic book publishing world right now, and they’re all equally upsetting. Amid changes in the world, changes in the industry seem small, but reading through Sabrina: Something Wicked #1, I forgot about all of that for 32 pages. It’s a shame there won’t be more next month, but what is here in this book is a strong comic from a creative team that is in perfect sync with one another, and that rises above some small shortcomings. It’s a comic which packs a surprising punch in terms of deeper content to suss out and unpack.
Sabrina: Something Wicked #1 is scheduled to be available digitally April 1, with print copies sent out to subscribers and those stores who ordered retailer variants.