Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, where each week one of our contributors goes crazy over a book they just can’t seem to get enough of. Intrigued to find something new? Seeking validation for your secret passions? Required Reading gets you.
By Arpad Okay. Does your heart beat faster when you think about Chilling Adventures of Sabrina? It should. It’s a book where your expectations are met, your hopes are justified, your dreams are satisfied. And more, much more than this, it shows you deep dreams that reach back ages before Archie Comics. This book is a joy. A mountain of murders. Unflinchingly raw and totally creepy. About as occult as it gets. In a word, splendid.
To tell the truth, it is excessively distressing. That joy I brought up might just be your nerves singing in terror. If you were expecting snappy antics and lighthearted boy troubles, you have opened the wrong door. The crux of the house is intact, the bond between Sabrina and her coven is everlasting. A Witch Nuclear Family. Despite the cradle-robbing circumstances that put this unit together, Sabrina the half-human is placed firmly in the hands of Lucifer’s true agents and somehow it works. The vibe in the house is decidedly We Have Always Lived in the Castle, where the love is way more wan than warm. Nobody’s safety is guaranteed. But this “murderer behind a mask of sweetness” motif is in its way touching back on another classic Sabrina theme: she is both teenager and witch. She can scare the sense out of us floating a few hands above her bed, but she’s just a high school girl. They all have secrets to keep.
It would seem that any “normal” Sabrina comes across is fleeting. It isn’t easy being a witch, to be born into a secret that could get your whole family killed; but then you have to hear people gossip about it in the halls before class. High school is where scary and playful reside in equal measure. So your secret nemesis becomes your drama teacher. Your cat becomes the only sensible voice in your life. The story does a great job of being very surreal and very relatable at the same time. Which is great for the horror — once the terror starts edging in through the trees you’ll wish you didn’t relate so much to this Spellman girl’s crazy, supernatural life.
It will chill your bones. It will warm your cheeks. Real talk about being young and full of desire. Real talk about spellcraft. Sabrina goes into studious, macabre detail regarding practicing magic. This comic isn’t merely fascinated with witches — it loves them. Their modern incarnations and their roots. Always the roots. The stories you told children before people paid attention to the stories you told children. The images are powerful, authentically pagan and quite severe. Better than retro, skull eyes across small town skies. This one is a library read, not for the school bus, okay?
And that’s the thing. Sabrina isn’t the only teenage witch out there. It’s empowering to see this all on the page. Even the terrifying is uplifting because here comes these crazy circumstances, these insanely high stakes, and Sabrina just rolls up her sleeves, jumps on her broom and deals with it.
The witches in Sabrina are real, realer than you’d expect. Eldritch and terrible worshippers of the Fall who live in the woods, in mystery and dark and salt. Paid in pain and blood. Able to twist up the world as they see fit. But the monsters in this book, they can live in anybody. Vengeance. Indifference. Guilt. Heartbreak is the real killer, the monkey’s paw runs on love. The gap between intentions and results can be a chasm that swallows you. Sabrina aims to keep you up at night. It might.
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.
Artwork by Robert Hack.
Lettered by Jack Morelli.