Before I start this review, I should disclose that I’m biased to enjoy it. It’s true that SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1, is the first issue of a non-horror Archie comic I’ve read; however, this is not my first time meeting the titular character. That’s because if we have Riverdale today, the ’90s had a different Archie character in the mainstream.

Before Archie characters were associated with brooding drama, Melissa Joan Hart was on TV starring as Sabrina in her own show. That show, complete with a puppet version of Salem, her cat, didn’t hide its comedic stripes. Like a good sitcom, it had just enough drama to keep the plot moving forward but never enough to warrant character or plot dissections by loyal fans. The show succeeded because it knew what it wanted to say and said it well, given the constraints of its form.

I bring that up as a way of introducing SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1. This comic hearkens back to the lighter formula of the old sitcom but still manages to surprise with new stuff, too. There was a certain joie de vivre about the whole thing, despite the terrors (literal and metaphorical) of high school.

The Characterization Matches My Memory and Adds More

As stated, I came to SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1 with preformed expectations of what I would be reading. So from this angle, I can say that Sabrina’s depiction was an utter success. Kelly Thompson, the writer, managed to capture Sabrina’s pointed wit, especially in her banter with Salem. Although her cat is only present for the first act of the book, he was everything I remembered. A combination of snark and wisdom that tempers a bit of Sabrina’s self-assurance:

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1
Image courtesy of Archie Comics.

In the actual book itself, there are plenty of characters to round Sabrina out. Foremost are her aunts Hilda and Zelda, upholding the down-to-earth warmth of the former and the cool sophistication of the latter for which the characters are known. They let us know about Sabrina’s home life and how she grew up. There’s two boys: Harvey Kinkle (of course) and Ren. This lets us see Sabrina’s social panache. And to reveal her good heart, there’s the bullied Jessa Chiang who becomes Sabrina’s friend. This is especially poignant after Sabrina defends her against the school’s “alpha ‘mean girl’ chick,” Radka.

It’s always hard to tell how mentally close to high schoolers fictional high schooler character are, but the words feel right. If nothing else, Thompson’s script in SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1 sounds like how I remember high school.

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1 is a Slice-of-Life Story Haunted by a Supernatural Specter

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1 would be just another high school story, if not for the way it begins. The first page of the comic employs a tonally dissonant bit of in medias res setup to let us know that Sabrina’s day does not end well. This tension — tension between the tranquility of the day and the terror of the night — keeps the story moving. If nothing else, the audience wants to see how Sabrina got herself into this mess.

Image courtesy of Archie Comics.

Nevertheless, it’s the primary story that pulled me along through each page. Despite its foreboding introduction, the comic is really about Sabrina’s first day at a new high school. It’s this story that reveals the teenager’s inner conflict: using her magic or not. It also reveals a story with which I could identify personally — being the new kid.

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1
Image courtesy of Archie Comics.

What I loved about the plot is that Thompson made extensive use of Sabrina’s inner monologue as she goes through her day. We get to see her be confident, but we also get her hopes and fears.  There’s something compelling and interesting about spending time with her. Despite a desire to know how she’ll confront the supernatural threat introduced at SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1’s beginning, the story of her day was fun enough to carry the comic.

The Art of SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1 is Surprisingly Expressive

What I love about the art of Veronica and Andy Fish is that I can’t quite pin down their influences. There’s the normal proportions expected of typical comic art, but the faces are just as expressive as manga characters.

Image courtesy of Archie Comics.

Just paging through the story, there’s so much good going on with the art. The Fish team doesn’t limit characterization to just the face alone: they do that with posture, too. From Jessa, hunched and fumbling with her shoelaces, to Radka, standing tall with a superhero pose, the Fish duo nails the feel of the characters. What I love most, though, is Sabrina’s downcast look of mischief right after she casts a spell. It’s that wiser-than-though-without-saying-it look I tried to perfect as a teenager, and it’s so great to see.

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1
Image courtesy of Archie Comics.

The coloring work also pull its weight, too. When Sabrina casts a spell, the comic cues in by giving everything a purply-pink shade. When the monster comes, the shadows are full and menacing. Otherwise, the comic has a vibrant palette that matches the upbeat script. (And I do appreciate that Greendale High’s lockers are green.)

Final Thoughts on SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1

I went into SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1 hoping to get the same vibe from the comic as I did from the sitcom. That was met. But there was also an unexpected side to it that was personal, too.

As I mentioned, this story matched my own experience of being a new kid in school. There’s that conflict between being self-conscious of who you appear to be on the outside versus revealing your true self too fast. I suppose that describes high school for most people, but it was a nice change from typical high school drama. By and large, I’d wager that most sitcom dramas — the love triangles and such — are not as common as issues of self-identity and learning who you are. SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1 feels the closest to how I remember high school, and there’s a certain amount of magic in that.

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1 by Kelly Thompson (script); Veronica Fish and Andy Fish (art); Jack Morelli (letters)
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1 is a promising start to a reboot series -- or, put simply, I enthusiastically recommend it. Kelly Thompson managed to blend the wit and humor of Sabrina with the semi-serious drama of finding one’s place in high school and dealing with the supernatural. Veronica Fish and Andy Fish blend this script with an expressive art style that is truly their own, better seen with your own eyes than described by me. All in all, I look forward to seeing where series will go.
100 %
GREAT FUN!

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