It’s almost Halloween which means right now my pop culture diet consists almost entirely of horror movies and spooky stories. And lucky you, that means we get to talk about two of the best horror comics out there: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Redlands. Witches and demons and corpses, oh my!
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Fresh off the success of Afterlife with Archie, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa strikes gold once more with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Like its predecessor, the story is wholly outside the standard Archie canon—it even references Afterlife as a vision or premonition—which gives Aguirre-Sacasa the freedom to run roughshod over everything Sabrina fans hold dear. I know what you’re thinking. “Sabrina the Teenage Witch? A horror comic? Really? Come on, Alex, be serious.” Well you can take your snooty sarcasm and stuff it because it’s not just good, it’s frakking great.
Sabrina is the result of an unholy union between wicked warlock Edward Spellman and his beleaguered human wife Diana. After her parents disappear, Edward’s witch sisters, Hilda and Zelda, take Sabrina in and raise her in the town of Greendale across the Sweetwater River from Riverdale. They’re joined by her rabble rousing English cousin Ambrose, his cobra familiars, and Salem the talking cat. Just as Sabrina falls for hometown boy Harvey Kinkle, a dead witch with a vicious grudge against the Spellmans escapes from Hell and assumes the name Evangeline Porter. Evangeline sets her sights on Sabrina, and poor Harvey gets caught in the middle. As long as Sabrina is charmed by Evangeline, she’ll never see the devil on her shoulder.
Robert Hack’s art is atmospheric and sinister. The story is set in the 1950s and 1960s, and his rough style and autumn palette give it a vintage feel, like a sepia photograph. Sometimes the artwork is a little too sketchy and the linework too dense. But he’s playing off of the style of mid-century horror comics, so it works for me. There’s a lot of text in this comic, particularly in the flashback issues, but Jack Morelli keeps everything flowing without overwhelming Hack’s art. Aguirre-Sacasa’s story isn’t the scariest thing you’ve ever read, but it’s spooky and moody with a Lovecraftian flair. He hasn’t quite got the hang of the female voice, especially not teen girls, but that’s, like, practically every male comic book writer so nothing new there. And it could stand some more diversity – POC existed even back in the suburbs in the 1960s, as surprising as that may sound. Where he really nails it is in the story itself. Whatever he’s building to, it’s going to have one helluva kick.
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; art: Robert Hack; letters: Jack Morelli. Archie Comics started publishing the series in 2014. Issue #8 is on shelves now, and #9 is scheduled for December 6, 2017.
Where Sabrina sticks firmly within the bounds of old-school horror comics, Redlands runs wild. Three witchy sisters, Ro, Alice, and Bridget, take over Redlands, Florida, and become its cops and caretakers. A creepy serial killer threatens to reveal their secrets, and they don’t take him seriously until it’s too late. To quote the creators, the story “is a diary of the people I hate, the people I love, the places I have and haven’t been. It’s a combination of nightmares I have while asleep and the ones that seem to happen even when we’re all awake.” It is, deep down in its blackened heart, a story about men who try to oppress women and the women who make them pay for their actions in blood and bone. If Sabrina is about love in the face of horror, Redlands is about the horror of humanity.
Look, I shouldn’t need to tell you how incredible Jordie Bellaire is. As a colorist, she’s one of the best in the biz. And as a storyteller she’s even better. Redlands is full of unspoken secrets and unexplained events, but it never feels unfinished or uninspired. She’s going to tell her story however she wants, at whatever pace she wants, and we’re just along for the ride. Vanesa R. Del Rey’s artwork is very indie and artsy. It reminds a little of Emma Ríos’ style, but with a more provocative and harsh edge. Her line work is heavy but the backgrounds are richly detailed. Simply put, it’s gorgeous. Clayton Cowles is as great as he always is. The line breaks, the padding around the text in the speech bubbles, even the font are all on point.
Rarely has a series with so few issues hit me as hard as Redlands has. From the script to the characters to the artwork to the clippings and photos filling out the addendum in the back, I just…wow. Only three issues are out so far, but I’ve re-read them a good half a dozen times each. Holy Hecate, this is one stunning series.
Story/creator: Jordie Bellaire, Vanesa R. Del Rey; art: Vanesa R. Del Rey; colors: Jordie Bellaire; letters: Clayton Cowles. Image Comics started publishing the series in 2018. Issue #3 is out now, and #4 is scheduled for November 8, 2017.
Alex Brown is a teen librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.