Now that popular culture has fully embraced the dark, creepy teenage witchery of Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, Archie Comics is shifting gears with the magical character once more. The latest Sabrina The Teenage Witch miniseries returns to a brighter, more cartoony aesthetic but still brings in more intense genre elements, blending teen romance, fantasy, horror, and even a dash of superhero. Written by Kelly Thompson, a go-to name for reimagined licenses (Jem And The Holograms, Nancy Drew), with art by Veronica Fish, Andy Fish, and letterer Jack Morelli, this miniseries is an effervescent update with gorgeous artwork. It starts in a traditional Sabrina place, but by its conclusion, presents the young witch as a magical hero in the vein of Doctor Strange or Zatanna.
Sabrina The Teenage Witch #5 (Archie) has Sabrina charging into battle with her magical armaments, riding atop her talking cat, Salem, transformed into a formidable flying panther. Her aunts have been captured and are about to be burned at the stake along with Greendale’s other witches, and Sabrina has to fight off a pack of monsters to save them. Morelli’s lettering emphasizes the transformations with different typefaces for Sabrina and Salem, and the sound effects amplify the sensation of the action. In the final page of the excerpt below, the sound effects create a sequence of events within the panel, with the first part picking up the wind leading into the “BOOM” explosion, which gains an extra white outline to differentiate it from the previous sound.
Veronica Fish’s star has rapidly risen over the last few years as she takes on a wide variety of projects, and collaborating with her husband, Andy, on the layouts and inking frees her up to color the linework herself. This is a very vibrant series, embracing the full spectrum of color to enhance the spectacle and take readers away from reality. Between Sabrina and last year’s Blackwood for Dark Horse Comics, the Fishes are dominating the realm of YA fantasy horror. They draw believable young people enlivened by their animated expressions, environments that are dripping with atmosphere, and action that moves swiftly and hits hard. One of the highlights of this Sabrina series is a single panel in the below excerpt showing our title character riding Salem while she narrates, “Well this doesn’t suck.” Salem’s majestic silhouette and lemon-lime wings cut through a soft purple sky, and zooming out to show the Greendale landscape reinforces a sense of awe as Sabrina adjusts to her power upgrade.
While pushing the fantastic elements, Thompson keeps the story grounded by turning to the defining characteristic of Archie Comics: the complications of adolescent romance. Sabrina’s main love interest, Harvey Kinkle, is still part of the cast, joined by new supporting characters like Jessa, Sabrina’s queer best friend, and Radka and Ren, two twins with their own mystical secret. Sabrina’s caught in a love triangle with Harvey and Ren, which resolves in a progressive way that makes Harvey more attractive by showing his willingness to respect Sabrina’s feelings.
There’s a lot of potential in this new take, but also room for improvement. The mystery of who is responsible for the monster attacks falls flat—the most obvious suspect ends up being the culprit—and the magic could use more definition. There isn’t any challenge in spell-casting, making magic an easy escape button instead of something Sabrina has to work at to execute. Luckily, this team gets the opportunity to tighten the narrative when it returns for next year’s Something Wicked miniseries, which promises even more danger for Sabrina and friends.