Robert Hack

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e01 – October Country

The opening titles of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” are, for the most part (if memory serves), Robert Hack art from the source comic book. Now, not only is the comic super-gory, it’s also a period(ish) piece; the show is set modern but none of the teenagers has a smartphone, so it’s a bit removed from reality. The episode opens in a movie theater, with Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) hanging out with her group of very modern friends. While boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch) is a non-jock White guy, Jaz Sinclair is the only Black girl in the town, and Lachlan Watson is non-binary. There’s a somewhat awkward thing about the bully-enabling principal—a fully dramatic Bronson Pinchot—isn’t an ally.

So some of the dialogue’s a little forced, but all the acting is good and, hey, at least there aren’t some mean girls causing problems too. Just some jocks, who bully and—oh, wait, physically assault—Watson, which Pinchot’s cool with because Watson doesn’t want to give up any names. Shipka tries to convince Bronson otherwise to no avail, which will eventually lead to her using witchcraft to even the playing field.

Shipka’s got the opening narration to set everything up: half-human, half-witch, raised by aunts Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto, T-minus five days until Shipka’s got to sign her soul over to Satan and go off to witch school in New England. Only Shipka’s not entirely sure she wants to leave her human friends, especially since her future witch classmates are mean to her for being half-human.

Further complicating matters is Michelle Gomez, one of Shipka’s teachers who just happens to have been possessed by a witch from Hell, whose job it is to make sure Shipka commits to her future as a minion of Lucifer only Gomez has to pretend to be the teacher. Of course, Gomez is playing a character from the comic and the show seems like a sequel to said comic, which show creator and episode writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa never finished because he started making TV shows. So I’ve got baggage and expectation with Gomez.

But it all works out, partially due to the great pacing.

Though Richard Coyle seems to be going way too hard on a Ewan McGregor impression; Coyle’s the cliffhanger arrival guest star… the Dark Pope, arrived to tempt Shipka to the cause. For the amount of build-up he gets, it’d be better if it were Ewan McGregor… It needs a final oomph.

Or would if Shipka’s acting weren’t on point enough to cover, which it is, which she does.

The show works because it’s well-written, Shipka’s a great lead, and the soundtrack is awesome.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 8 (October 2017)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #8There hasn’t been much Sabrina in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina lately. At least two issues, maybe three. This issue is all Sabrina. It was, like Chilling Adventures itself, worth the wait. Aguirre-Sacasa and Hack put Sabrina through a romance comic adventure, one with some good girl art, while never losing the twisted reality of it all. Aguirre-Sacasa’s writing is stellar, on plotting, on characters. He does this close third person narration, mostly between Sabrina and her dad (who’s possessing her reincarnated zombie boyfriend). It’s twisted and great. Then there’s a witch battle. Hack does it all. There’s even a Jughead cameo. Sabrina has held strong without its lead, but it’s so nice to have her back.

CREDITS

Witch-War, Chapter Two: The Psychopomps; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist, Robert Hack; letterer, Jack Morelli; editor, Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 7 (August 2017)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #7This issue of Sabrina has almost no Sabrina. None as the lead. Instead, it’s got her dad, Edward, coming back to life in the body of Sabrina’s dead boyfriend, Harvey. It’s a frame for a flashback. You know, while Edward, in Harvey’s body, eats Harvey’s parents.

Because it’s a really gross comic. Aguirre-Sacasa knows Hack can sell the creepiness of the behavior while implication. There’s no need for gore. As horrifying as the visuals might get, Hack’s artwork is always lovely. Especially for the flashbacks, in which Edward appears to be a young Eddie Munster type. It’s downright fun for a while–Aguirre-Sacasa enjoys the less gory content fine, he just always punctuates with gore. And after it’s fun, it starts getting creepier and creepier.

It’s awesome. The creators aren’t trying to recreate the gothic, melodramatic horror comic, they’re just doing a good one.

CREDITS

Witch-War, Chapter One: The Truth about Demonology; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist, Robert Hack; letterer, Jack Morelli; editor, Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 6 (September 2016)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #6Aguirre-Sacasa starts this issue of Sabrina with some rather showy exposition. The series always has good exposition with a fluid narrative distance, but this opening is something different. It’s Aguirre-Sacasa using some of the goodwill he’s built up; he’s asking the reader to get excited. It’s almost like he’s pep rallying what’s going to come.

And it’s deserved. It’s a great issue, covering the histories of Sabrina’s family’s familiars. Samuel the cat is the focus of the comic, but Aguirre-Sacasa wants the reader to have to wait. He and Hack deliver a fantastic origin for the asps in the house. Then it’s Samuel’s turn and Aguirre-Sacasa starts it off really slow. He’s dragging the reader along, holding them hostage–is this origin going to be worth it? Because Aguirre-Sacasa sets it up to be a big deal–Samuel doesn’t want to reveal his origin and then he makes the asps promise never to bring it up again. That behavior, even for a witch’s familiar in the form of a cat, is weird. Is the origin worth it?

Yes, but not for the plot twists. Sabrina looks like homage to seventies horror, but it’s not. Aguirre-Sacasa does something different with it, mixing the psychological scares and the visual ones in different combination. The “disturbing” visuals in the series aren’t scary (well, maybe somebody mutilated but I mean the really freaky witch designs Hack comes up with). This issue has lovable witches even. Aguirre-Sacasa deals with the witch trials and he goes far making them sympathetic. Samuel might not like them, but he’s kind of a jerk.

While Aguirre-Sacasa is busy showing the reader how to read the comic, Hack is making sure the reader keeps going at the right pace. The creators seem more enthusiastic about the comic than they want the readers to be. But it’s also expertly rendered. Like I said, it’s a great comic.

CREDITS

Familiars; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist, Robert Hack; letterer, Jack Morelli; editor, Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 5 (July 2016)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #5Has it been a year since the last Sabrina? I guess it has been. Thank goodness Aguirre-Sacasa opens with a text recap (though I didn’t read it closely enough, which caused me some minor confusion).

Sabrina is on trial for cavorting with mortal boy Harvey, who is now dead. She wants to bring him back, unknowingly enlisting her nemesis to aid in the effort. And then Aguirre-Sacasa has a big surprise for that part of the story too. Sabrina is full of surprises and none of them are good for its protagonist, which is sort of weird. It feels like a melodrama, more than anything else, it feels like Aguirre-Sacasa is doing this giant teenage period piece melodrama with witches. It’s awesome.

Excellent art from Hack, who gets to do a nice variety of things here. There’s the witches trial, there’s the high school, there’s some other stuff. It’s great looking. There’s a lot of humor in the art this issue too. Hack’s having fun.

Sabrina is an excellent book. It has to be to be worth this kind of wait.

CREDITS

The Crucible, Chapter Five: The Trial; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist, Robert Hack; letterer, Jack Morelli; editor, Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 4 (September 2015)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #4Aguirre-Sacasa doesn’t mess around this issue. He keeps taking Sabrina down its dark path, spending the entire issue dealing with what happens when witches have to make a regular person disappear. Because if you’re a witch, sometimes you need to make hard choices and significant sacrifices to the Dark One.

While all this darkness is circling the regular cast, the kids from Riverdale show up–it’s not a full fledged Archie crossover but Aguirre-Sacasa does hint at future complications.

On one hand, the comic is just masterful horror. Hack’s art is simultaneously luscious and horrifying. The script–and the narrative design choices–are great. It’s terrifying while still being assuring. Aguirre-Sacasa finds the exact balance to keep it going just on the edge.

But he’s also doing a very aware reinvention of a (somewhat) familiar franchise and negotiating all those implications.

Sabrina is awesome. Just plain awesome.

CREDITS

The Crucible, Chapter Four: Harvey Horrors; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist, Robert Hack; letterer, Jack Morelli; editor, Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 3 (July 2015)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #3A lot of this issue is fantastic. Almost all of it. Except the ending and not even the hard cliffhanger, but how Aguirre-Sacasa gets there. The issue is about Sabrina’s baptism (with the Devil, of course) on her sixteenth birthday. Throughout the issue, Aguirre-Sacasa has been doing flashbacks to her talking to her aunts about it five years earlier. For the ceremony, he cuts in between an expository flashback and the modern actions. It’s a very traditional film technique.

And has no place in this (or possibly any) comic book. Of all the techniques Aguirre-Sacasa borrows (he puts some dialogue in parentheses like Bendis), borrowing a movie (and TV) technique just feels wrong. It stops the story and breaks Sabrina as a protagonist. Aguirre-Sacasa is skipping her in her ceremony.

Otherwise, the issue’s wonderful stuff. Beautiful artwork from Hack as well.

Aguirre-Sacasa’s just too crafty.

CREDITS

The Crucible, Chapter Three; Unholy Baptism; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist, Robert Hack; letterer, Jack Morelli; editor, Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2 (June 2015)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2The protagonist of the second issue of Sabrina–Aguirre-Sacasa doesn’t actually go with Sabrina, but her new (unknown to her) nemesis–is so disturbing, once the story does get back to Sabrina and company, as creepy as they are, they’re welcoming.

The issue’s protagonist is Madam Satan. Who has a proper name, but I can’t remember it (it comes up only once in a flashback). She used to date Sabrina’s father and he dumped her for a human (Sabrina’s mother). So Madam Satan let a bunch of lions eat her, which sent her to the part of Hell for suicides, but she’s back.

I can’t explain it all. Aguirre-Sacasa and Hack have a lovely way of filling in the exposition; the fluidity of Hack’s artwork as it flows between past and present, imagined and real, is phenomenal.

Who knew Sabrina the Teenage Witch could be so dang good?

CREDITS

The Crucible, Chapter Two; The Secret History of Madam Satan; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist, Robert Hack; letterer, Jack Morelli; editor, Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

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