By Arpad Okay. One of the greatest things a horror story can do is craft a likable monster. Show us the murders, the rampant egocentrism, the congregation gathered ‘round the table eating their neighbors alive with total nonchalance, but make them charming. Make their stories fascinating. This is the genius of Edward Spellman, his origin story told over dinner in the latest issue of Sabrina.
“Witch-War” carries on the tradition of Sabrina doubling as an occult exposé. It’s studious writing, always sure to explain the details of the ritual before it happens, which makes it a read like a lost volume from Mysteries of the Unknown. The eldritch exposition sits right with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s retro vibe, embracing and twisting yesteryear iconography. Letterman jackets and wallet-sized portrait photos. Here they’re inverted, like crosses in church hanging upside-down. The Weird Sisters prophecize, crowned with beauty salon hairdryers.
Robert Hack’s style for Sabrina recalls Eddie Campbell, From Hell’s inkblots and dark vagary transmuted into fine details and given an autumnal wash of color. Zoom in and peruse the blasphemous paintings on the Church of Night’s walls, the gnarled chew marks on a cane. Zoom out (culturally), and Eddie Spellman’s visage is that of a young Butch Patrick. Here’s Steven Marcato’s death, straight from the pages of All of Them Witches. And then there are the demons, captured with striking variety and authenticity. (And, thanks to Jack Morelli’s inspired lettering, given a matching legion of voices.)
Which brings me back to my first point. Edward Spellman is summoning devils, and we are right there with him. We overlook the evil acts and connect with the hours spent in study to achieve them. I want to meet the chimeric Demon Lord Cerbere, even though only a few pages before he appeared a High Wizard warned me of the danger in mistaking a monster for anything else. Sabrina blasts past our better judgment to give us exactly what we want.
“Witch-War” is a masterful refresher that fleshes out the Chilling Adventures world while simultaneously dining on it. (Heck, it makes you want to go back and re-read the whole series the minute you finish it.) It’s an ideal comic. Bulky, gorgeous, and an enticing set-up of what comes next. Sabrina’s return has been worth the wait. There’s nothing quite like this anywhere else at Archie Comics, or in comics at all, frankly. Find it and be transformed yourself.
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.
Art by Robert Hack.
Letters by Jack Morelli.
8.5 out of 10