Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art: Robert Hack
Published by: Archie Comics
Release Date: April 16, 2015

Embracing it’s dark-side and reveling in nostalgic film touches, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina gives rationale and exposition to it’s Queen of Hell: Madam Satan. If you are not aware of who Madam Satan is, no one would blame you, since this issue comes six months after the initial release of the first issue. The first issue focused on the dysfunction and danger Sabrina is unknowingly facing from her own family. This issue turns towards outward dangers, specifically Madam Satan, who is coming to exert her revenge on Sabrina’s tree-bound father, Edward, and Sabrina’s clinic-bound mother.

The first half of the book presents itself as a fledgling Grindhouse themed horror film. Light touches of nudity, off screen violence, yet copious amounts of blood, vengeful judgement and ever present narrator create this feeling.  It’s all the trappings of a b-horror that you imagine would be taboo and unheard of to talk about in polite society back in the 1960s. This feels like it could be fun, like the first issue. However, trite or problematic story elements appear in several forms: ghoul takes revenge on a man who commits violence against women, a woman who commits suicide over the loss of man, and the revenge of a scorned lover.  The narration makes the pace crawl throughout the exposition pages. Madam Satan’s journey is dragged out across half the book. It is clear this is an attempt to sell the power and sinister nature of Madam Satan. Individual elements seem appealing.

Robert Hack’s artwork in these panels shows his love of setting and detail. Fine lines on trees, vehicles and directional lines in panels attempt to move the eye along. When Madam Satan shows her true face, there is careful care given to her eyes. On the flip-side, human faces are either overly shaded or kept extremely simple. The forms are quaint but rushed or ignored looks of innocence. There is an attempt to be take it to the horror level with smudges of blood or wisps of loose hair. The transitions and shading of the gutters are quiet clever. There is a transition of color provided to distinguish flashback from present story, as well as sponge or bleed of color from the panels into gutters to keep stark white borders at bay.

The second half of the book takes on more of the adornment of the 1960s teen-drama movie used when presenting Sabrina’s story in the first issue. She is so wholly unaware of the dangers around her. She is busy listening to her cousin scoff about her aunt’s cannibalism, and worried about trying out for Drama Club. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa goes far to sell this ideal witch lifestyle by including a cameo of a real 1960s movie starlet. It’s a fun hat tip that brings a smile, although feels out of place. Artist, Robert Hack takes this cameo a step further by taking a titillating, yet commonly used camera angle. In any other book, it would be overtly unacceptable and condemned. Given the setting of 1966 and the star in question it’s an homage that is humorous if unnecessary. Most of Sabrina’s on page time is given to singing lyrics from “Bye, Bye Birdie” and further revealing Madam Satan’s plans.

Even in this second half, the art style will not sell all readers. It’s a distinct and bountiful palette of browns, oranges, yellows. There is just the occasional touch of red to sell menace, evil or those who can fall under Madam Satan’s influence. The brush strokes of coloring are purposely distinct, the direction chosen carefully to provide the shading. This high level of coloring skill does not make up for some of the ignored facial features and clumsy body work found on some pages. There is almost a trade off in styles at times. The latter half of the book feels like more time and care were given to the body forms. The first half, being so background heavy, gives the impression that the physical form of the humans were ignored or rushed. That will turn off those who are drawn more to clean superhero styles and coloring palettes that include overt flats.

Another aspect that could turn some readers off is the high level of focus on Madam Satan in the story. Sabrina feels like an after-thought in her own title. There is heavy lifting to sift through this villain’s background story, that causes a stagnation for Sabrina’s own life. It is a single-minded choice so that you understand the evil Sabrina will be facing in future issues. If you do not enjoy looking back, you could find yourself decided a six month wait was not worth it. This is not the daring and exciting points of view presented in the first issue. However, moderate to serious horror fans will delight in the presentation, despite the lack of weightier undertones. What is clear is that with the way Madam Satan positions herself in Sabrina’s life, someone is about to get schooled.

The Verdict: 7.0/10



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