Review: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #3 or Sabrina’s Purity4Satan Campaign
Script: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art: Robert Hack, Jack Morelli
Cover: Robert Hack
Lettering: Jack Morelli
Warning: Contains Spoilers for Sabrina #3
Claire: Okay so first of all: did you LIKE it
Ginnis: Yes! I am intrigued by the mythos they are developing about the kind of witches that Sabrina and her family are. I am a bit concerned about if the story will end up being like Sabrina and her coven in service to Satan, a male figure, or if there will be a space for critique of this – a sort of metaphor for matriarchy, patriarchy, feminism, and all that. What about you?
Claire: Love it, love it, love it. Love that they actually WENT THERE with the real Satan: verified cloven-hooved hairy-crotched SATAN. Love that Sabrina is in a real horny teenaged relationship, love that there’s death and badness and weird shit going on with the aunts and their coven, love that everything feels like it has weight and import. Harvey getting in the way of Sabrina’s giving the Dark Lord her autograph feels like it really matters, and with only two previous issues, most of which didn’t even feature Sabrina herself, that’s impressive as heck.
Ginnis: Exactly! This comic is like a slow burn which I think is crucial to doing good horror. For example, this weekend I saw the Poltergeist remake. It was terrible for many reasons, but one of them being there wasn’t enough time spent building up the story. I think build up makes for better horror, especially when it’s kind of quiet and ominous like CAoS has been so far.
Claire: We’ve actually been given… I don’t know if it’s more, but definitely as much as characterisation of our villain as we have our heroine. Madam Satan got a whole issue to herself last time, and this one keeps her at the front of the action; we see her with Sabrina, with Harvey, and alone with her familiar making plans. A villain with dimension is always more interesting than a villain without it, but Sabrina really seems to be going above and beyond on that count. I wonder if we’re really supposed to be remembering that Madam Satan is just as much (well… again, almost as much) a victim of Sabrina’s Dad as Sabrina herself? Like, look at what this idiot man did, he sure messed up these women’s lives with his selfish sex-having and loner ideas about his right to controlled reproduction?
Ginnis: True, but I appreciate that despite that, I don’t necessarily have sympathy for Madam Satan. After all, she’s shown to be quite vengeful in her living life prior to all this. I like that’s she complex, but I don’t want a sympathetic villain. I am so sick of sympathetic villains! So considering Sabrina’s Dad’s role in this – do you think there’s a potential commentary going on there?
Claire: I agree with you on that. I am fully in favour of villains who have just gone too far to be considered safe to wait for.
Re: her Dad (Edward? I think), yeahhh I probably do. I think I can pretty reliably state that Sabrina is at least partly intended to function as satire–the “it’s different for boys, it doesn’t matter as much” exchange between Sabrina and cousin Ambrose, and the obvious matriarchal structure of the coven, remind me too easily of that “why can’t I go to space school?//Because you’re a MAN” retro comic panel that does the rounds on twitter now and then. Archie Comics has such a firm rooting in the real actual sexist sixties, and Witchcraft is so traditionally feminine (can I just remind us to come back to that incredibly yonic symbol on the altar in a wee bit) that having the root of the series problem be a bad dad seems inescapably purposeful. All-male creative team or no.
Ginnis: Yes, all male creative team. Witchcraft is very matriarchal, but this particular coven and the mythology they are shaping here is very much in service to the Dark Lord, the Dark Master, Satan is shown and addressed as VERY MALE and the witches, largely female, are in service to him. I am interested in how that will pan out.
But, yes, do tell me about this yonic symbol!
Claire: The thing about Satan being a bloke is that the series seems to be balancing itself on a knife edge re: whether Sabrina actually will or should sign herself over to him. That the witches do have a tinge of evil about them (I believe this is a departure from previous comics-versions of Sabrina; they certainly weren’t so deathly in the tv show) suggests to me that there’s some ambiguity on the “yes, witches should be under Lucifer” front.
Thassa VULVA. I mean it may well also be a legitimate arcane symbol but whether it is or not, it is totally biological. And on the one hand, I love it, that’s so brazen, a vaginal area in wholesome Sabrina! On the other, I am a cis lady with a vulva that gives me granted access to Women’s Spaces and pop culture wicca and etc etc–but not every girl is, and that makes me a little sad, because while genitalia hasn’t been acknowledged in speech, and clearly everybody can be a witch, I don’t want anybody to feel cast out even as I feel pulled in by this yonic symbology. I’m kinda torn.
Ginnis: I agree with you on the ambiguity. And after all, Madam Satan originally was resurrected to do Satan’s bidding, but in this version this is HER quest, HER vengeance. And 90s Sabrina was very wholesome as were her aunts. However, when Sabrina first appeared she generally had good intentions, but her bad aunts encouraged her to treat humans poorly. So I like that this time they are all cannibals and Satanists (which is different from witchcraft which is a problem that the story conflates).
Now, about the vulva – I didn’t actually see that, but uh, duh, Ginnis. It totally is. I think it is important in the historical setting of the story that it be yonic and in keeping with what you said earlier, Claire, about the sort of “it’s easier for boys.”
Hey, so what did you think about the whole purity thing? And the cheeky having to ride side-saddle on the goat?
Claire: I laughed out loud at having to ride side-saddle on the goat. ROUGH TIMES FOR SABRINA. The purity thing is interesting, isn’t it? I wonder if that’s a product of the creative team’s masculine perspective? I never see articles about mothers having their daughters pledge their virginity to them, but this week alone I’ve already seen one photoset of father/daughter pledge days. Why would the devil care if you banged your boyfriend? Wouldn’t he be like, “yeah go for it. Nice”?
Ginnis: Right?! And also the conflation of mind and body purity here. Like the assumption if she is pure of body, she is pure of mind, but she’s clearly horny as any red-blooded American teenager – but those two being conflated, I found troubling – she is her body.
Claire: I do appreciate that Sabrina’s love’n’sex life really matters to her, and that it’s not… gross. It could easily have been gross. Maybe the purity4satan thing is just the best they could do to create some relevant allegory? I really enjoy Sabrina’s doubts and fears about whether or not Harvey is “worth it”–worth living as a mortal, to her, but “is this person worth it” is an important question to a) any teen or b) any person dating anyone. Should she put value on their relationship? Or rather, should she put lasting value on it. It worries me a bit that Harvey looks so old while they discuss birthday boinking in the car–is that on purpose, to suggest that he’s NOT worth it, or it it just an art slip? I was a big viewer of the Melissa Joan Hart Sabrina and even though I’d moved away from it by the end, I know that I responded with some care to the news that Harvey had proved to be her True Love. I don’t want him to be a creep! But I also kind of do, because… horror comics…
He looks ancient and sleazy. But I believe in Sabrina’s serious, Vivien Leigh-esqe look of pensive love, there!
Ginnis: I think it is supposed to read a bit predatory which is reflected in his dialogue and her caution and his creepy older dude vibe. He really does look a little long in the tooth, Claire. But, I think you are spot on about this being horror – it’s supposed to explore these fears, desires in all their complexity, which is why I love the genre, and I do think the creative team is doing a great job thus far with that.
Claire: Good point! Maybe it’s making us worry about Harvey on purpose. That’s dastardly. How marvellous!
Because this is suuuuuuuuch good art. Like. It’s delicious. The colours are so autumn-warm, the detail is just the right level of realistic/blink-and-miss-it unsettling… Possibly my favourite thing is how grotty the gutters look, even in a digital issue. That’s such a high level of experience-control! That they went to the bother of making the pages look tainted. Like somebody found the pages in an abandoned barn, a story that was never told because everybody involved vanished horribly.
Ginnis: The colors, the warmth, and the scratchy lines almost make me queasy when I read this comic which I think is kinda perfect. I think it reflects this sort of smothering atmosphere Sabrina is in: high school, pick Satan or pick mortality, etc. I think the original comics, both the first run and the saccharine 90s one, tried to get at that, but this takes it to the level of horror – being a teenager – and that’s exactly where it should be.
Claire: I have to say, if I’d have been lucky enough to read Sabrina Spellman thwacking a goat with a big machete when I was sixteen…