The idea of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch as a dark, bloody horror comic in the vein of Warren Publications’ unnerving black-and-white horror anthologies from the ’70s sounds, on the face of it, ridiculous. Sabrina has always been a goofy, Scooby-Doo-esque Archie character better suited to sitcoms and cartoons than unsettling horror.
That makes what Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, one of the masterminds behind Archie’s bid for more grown-up readers with books like Afterlife with Archie, such a consistent surprise. Aguirre-Sacasa is Archie Comics’ chief creative officer (he also wrote the screenplay to the Carrie remake), and here he smartly draws out the horror by showing us an evil plan coming together brick by brick. Sabrina has been the target of a witch’s rage, but instead of coming at her magic in hand, she’s been subtly manipulating Sabrina into doing something horrible without her knowledge. The book ends on a disturbingly perverse note that hints at more trouble for the witch from Greendale.
The atmosphere, though, is all thanks to artist Robert Hack. Hack’s eye for detail in his inking and the hard brushstrokes he colors the book with give it an ongoing sense of claustrophobia: Even huge, open spaces feel too close for comfort. And when things get gory, there’s just enough detail to let your imagination fill in the rest. Bloody, atmospheric, and unnerving, Sabrina has it all for horror fans.
Dept. H #2, Dark Horse
Matt Kindt’s murder mystery, set on a deep-sea research station, gains some new layers with an issues that focuses more on why our heroine is miles under the water solving a murder that might not actually be one, rather than the murder itself. Kindt’s depiction of marine life is gorgeous, but it’s the characters that’ll pull the reader under here.
The Beauty #7, Image
One of my criticisms of this book has been that it takes a great idea — a sexually transmitted disease that makes you beautiful — and made a standard conspiracy thriller out of it. Jeremy Haun and Mike Huddleston address that problem with this new jumping-on point. The Beauty of the title takes a backseat to character as we meet a man who has been looking to burn his vicious, criminal life to the ground, and now has a way to do it. Now that it’s exploring its concept, it’s a much stronger book, and a welcome addition to Image’s line of thoughtful science fiction titles.
Black Road #2, Image
Brian Wood and Garry Brown shift gears from their post-ecopocalypse thriller The Massive to explore an unusual era in human history: Norway as it converts from worshipping Norse gods to being overtaken, sometimes violently, by Christians. It’s a grim book, in some respects, but it earns it in part by not varnishing anything and by making Magnus an anti-hero who only commits violence because he has to, not because he enjoys it. It’s unique on the stands, and an excellent read for Viking fans and mystery fans alike.
Karnak #4, Marvel
Karnak, the Inhuman who sees the flaw in all things, can shatter boulders with one fist and destroy an entire army by speaking into a microphone. But can he turn that ability in on himself? According to Warren Ellis and Gerardo Zaffino, almost certainly not. Ellis makes a bold move here, script-wise, and turns Karnak into a full-on anti-hero, closing the book with an act of spite because he didn’t get his way. And yet it works, in part because it illustrates not just a flaw in Karnak, but his lack of awareness. Marvel’s boldest book keeps getting better, and just where this Inhuman goes promises to be fascinating.
Superman: American Alien #7, DC Comics
Max Landis and Jock wrap up their miniseries with an unexpected tribute to ’90s superhero brawls inflected with a musing on heroism, with a surprising villain at the center of the piece.
Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior #7, Valiant
Robert Venditti and Raul Allen contrast the super-science of comics with the mysticism they enjoy in an unexpectedly creepy, smartly designed thriller.
Power Man And Iron Fist #4, Marvel
David Walker and Sanford Green’s buddy comedy is funny, but the best moments show a lot of heart to go with the gags.
Future Quest #1, DC Comics
Jeff Parker and Evan “Doc” Shaner update the cheesy Hanna-Barbera adventure series with a light touch, mixing an upbeat ’60s tone with a modern sensibility to deliver a fun, brisk adventure.
Mae #1, Dark Horse
Gene Ha’s imaginative take on “portal fiction” focuses not on the character romping through a fantasy land, but the younger sister stuck picking up the emotional mess she makes. It’s a smart, funny riff on fantasy tropes, especially with Ha’s creature design.
This Week’s Collections:
Walt Kelly’s Fables and Funnies (Dark Horse, hardcover, $50): The creator of Pogo, Kelly’s non-Pogo work is rarely collected, and Dark Horse has done its usual lavish, lovely job on reprinting these.
Unfollow Vol. 1 (DC, softcover, $15): DC’s thriller about a collection of social media users inheriting a vast fortune hints at going one way, and then twists away into another.
Stray Bullets Vol. 5 (Image, softcover, $20): David Lapham’s classic suburban noir is being recollected by Image, and readers who missed it the first time around should pick it up.