Sabrina the Teenage Witch #1
Veronica and Andy Fish (artists), Jack Morelli (letterer), Kelly Thompson (writer)
March 27, 2019
Every teenager has at one point wished they could magically make a mean girl go splat into a big pile of mud, but Sabrina Spellman has that power. She’s a witch, of course—a teenage witch. And Sabrina will need all the magic she can summon to get through her first day at Greendale High, because if a mean girl isn’t monstrous enough, there’s a Wendigo lurking outside her school!
Sabrina the Teenage Witch #1 is the latest revitalization of a classic Archie Comics character, and the first in a five-issue miniseries by Kelly Thompson and Veronica and Andy Fish. It’s a spirited (literally) debut, full of charm with a dash of witchy spice. Tonally, it strikes a balance between the whimsy of the 90s ABC television series and the demonic charge of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, making it a perfect slumber party read. Unlike a werewolf bar mitzvah, it’s spooky, but not scary.
We know the story before the comic tells it; all Archie Comics, whether the zombiefied or regular variety, are everyteen stories. A new girl arrives at school, makes a geeky friend, butts heads with a mean girl, and finds her heart pulled into the orbit of a love triangle with a good guy and a bad boy. We know the broad strokes, but the Thompson/Fish creative team fill in the details with sparkling flourishes that make the characters feel like real people in a real world, rather than one-dimensional paper dolls. That specialness is in Sabrina’s shy, hunched shoulders as she walks to school; in mean girl Radka Ransom wearing a tracksuit rather than a miniskirt and heels; in Salem the cat waking up Sabrina with his butt in her face. (Oh yeah, you didn’t think I’d review a Sabrina comic and not talk about Salem, did you?)
Having already written childhood icons Jem and the Holograms, Nancy Drew, and the X-Men, the unbeatable Kelly Thompson comes for Sabrina Spellman next, and Sabrina is a likeable and lively protagonist under her pen. Forced to hide her powers from her classmates, Sabrina sees the thing that makes her special as the thing that makes her different, and it’s easy to relate to the young outsider. Prepare to feel a tiny pang when she looks glumly at her reflection and performs a glamour that changes her hair from a ghostly white to a golden blonde. And if the scene where Sabrina magically fixes her class’s inaccurate and outdated history textbooks doesn’t get at least 10,000 notes on Tumblr, what are we even doing anymore?
Thompson wastes no time making the rest of the cast feel distinct, from Aunt Zelda with her nightmarish green smoothies (“With cinnamon for extra protection and love”) to the misbehaving Radka and Ren Ransom, who like Cheryl and Jason Blossom, make a fine pair of sinister siblings. Even the normally forgettable token love interest Harvey Kinkle feels worthy of our attention, as he may be the only person to see through Sabrina’s glamour to the real girl underneath. “From a distance, in the sunlight, I thought your hair was white,” he says. Sabrina chuckles.
Veronica and Andy Fish bring visual magic to Kelly Thompson’s charming script. The artwork is delightful, with appealing and diverse characters (particularly important for Radka, Ren, and new best friend Jessa Chiang, who are all new to the Sabrina-verse) and a fully-realized setting. Even casual “walk and talk” panels have bursts of surprising detail, like a portrait of one of Sabrina’s witch trials-era ancestors, set in a massively ornate gilded frame. The wispy tendrils of Sabrina’s magic—colored in bright pink—are another eye-snaring detail. Above all, the Fishes have a great eye for what it’s like to be a teenager; we see their hopes, their insecurities, their crushes, and, finally, their fears, in their faces and their body language. Every character feels special, witch or not.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch #1 is a strong beginning to a promising miniseries. Kelly Thompson and Veronica and Andy Fish capture the outsider spirit that’s made the character so enduring over the decades, and the comic is fresh, fun, and just a little freaky. Sabrina is enchanting.