“There was no halfway in the Church of Night.”
This collection of issues from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina gives us all the (literally) gory details behind some of the horror series’ most prominent supporting characters.
I must confess that the many publishing delays for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina — eight issues released in the span of over four years — and its sister series Afterlife With Archie caused me to lose track of both series. With this special collecting issues #6 through #8, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to jump back into the story. Luckily, these take a bit of an anthology approach to their storytelling.
Issue #6 in particular brings to mind the wild side streets Neil Gaiman’s Sandman would oftentimes wander down. Much in the same way Sabrina herself keeps finding herself wrapped up in Lovecraftian horror, Salem and the two cobras’ origin stories are interwoven with the very fabric of folklore. It’s a really novel, almost League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-esque approach to the characters.
Issue #7 has a framing device that is a little difficult for the uninitiated to jump into, but the majority of the story is devoted to revealing parts of Sabrina’s background, as well as the origin of the series’ big bad…and let me tell you, he’s certainly bad. If the Netflix Sabrina series is a gateway drug to horror, this book is black tar heroin. It’s not only violent, but supremely uncomfortable. Even its moments of levity are couched within layers of pitch black humor.
Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly darker comics out there. However, this series hits that odd nerve that Afterlife with Archie does; there’s something extra upsetting about seeing these beloved characters in these situations. Reader familiarity pushes the uncanny nature of this series even further than it would if this were a wholly original story. I personally think that’s one of the reasons why this series works as well as it does.
Robert Hack’s artwork is exceptional, particularly in the second story. The grand pronouncements and occasional empty backgrounds lend the issues almost a Chick tract kind of vibe, as if these issues were unholy propaganda that fell here from another world. It’s a brilliant approach, especially since the story is basically a high-energy and prideful explanation of Edward Spellman’s meteoric rise in the service of Satan. Naturally, he wants to spread the good/evil word. The art style and panel layout is perfectly suited to setting the uniquely bizarre tone for Edward’s story.
Again, it may seem like an odd choice at first to feature three issues in this collection from later in the series’ run, but they do actually tell a well-rounded story, even for newcomers. Sure, there are a few moments that may not land as well for folks who haven’t read issues 1-6 (especially a curious reference to Afterlife with Archie), but this special issue should easily grab the attention of anyone with even the slightest interest in Riverdale, Netflix’s Chilling Adventures or any of Archie’s other horror-related books. Be warned, though: you may become hooked and then have to wait for the resolution like the rest of Sabrina’s fans.