The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by Robert Hack
Lettering by Jack Morelli
Published by Archie Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
Since bursting on the scene with the blood-soaked and irreverent Afterlife with Archie, Archie Horror has delivered nothing short of greatness as the second arc of Afterlife shambled along and the imprint’s second series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, hit shelves. Even though Sabrina, a spin-off starring Afterlife’s breakout star, is only two issues deep into its first arc, the creative team involved have pulled out every stop in sight to deliver a deliciously wicked tale of retro horror. Writer Robert Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Robert Hack use this second issue to further expand Sabrina’s world as another powerful witch with strong ties to Sabrina’s family slinks into Greendale leaving a trail of bodies and madness in her wake. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2 lives up to its title this month and more over, delivers the horror in Archie Horror.
This month’s sterling chapter introduces the audience to Madame Satan, the charmingly named antagonist who, after an untold amount of time languishing in a circle of Hell, returns to the mortal realm in order to sow seeds of chaos. Aguirre-Sacasa hits pay dirt with Madame Satan as she kills and maims her way across the state, seeking to fill in the gaps in her memory and seek out what remains of her coven. Most of Sabrina #2's page count is devoted to the Madame’s search for answers, but never once does it feel like filler. As the title states, this second installment is all about the secret history of Madame Satan and Aguirre-Sacasa more than delivers on that promise as he sets up Satan as a fixture of the series, allowing her to worm her way into the fabric of Sabrina’s life with relative ease, a few well-placed spells, and a whole heap of style. While Sabrina and her kooky family are the main stars of the series, I wouldn’t be surprised if Madame Satan ended up stealing the whole show further into this series, much like Sabrina did over in Afterlife With Archie.
As Aguirre-Sacasa makes the most of the '60s setting and the rise of Madame Satan, artist Robert Hack renders it all with panels that would be right at home between the covers of Vault of Horror or The Haunt of Fear. Hack’s pencils and colors in Sabrina #2 are nothing short of astounding. Every page is absolutely lousy with gorgeous detail, dread, and pulpy color choices. Hack draws Sabrina #2 as if he was still working with the yellowed pages of horror comics of old and this artistic choice fits right in with the overall tone of the series. Throughout, Hack forgoes traditional backgrounds and opts instead to simply fill the negative space with solid blocks of warm colors, like autumnal oranges and earthy browns. This very simple choice gives Sabrina #2 a vintage comics look that slots in perfectly with the throwback nature of the setting. Hack’s character designs also wildly impress, especially that of Madame Satan, who switches from her traditional Jane Russell-esque human persona to a ghoulish, demonic visage with skulls for eyes at the drop of a hat. After multiple readings, I assuredly say that The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2 has it all; a sharp, creepy script that is complimented with some amazing artwork.
Life can be a touch difficult when you are a teenage witch, but if The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2 is any indication, Sabrina Spellman’s life might be on track to become a living hell. And to think, the hardest thing that Sabrina had to deal with before now was Bye-Bye Birdie auditions. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2 may not have the breakneck pace of Afterlife With Archie or the constant threat of zombie action, but none of that matters when you have an artist like Robert Hack on your book or a spooky and thoughtful script underneath it all. Robert Agurrie-Sacasa shows with Sabrina #2 that he can deliver without filling every page with flesh eating monsters and thinly veiled satire. Archie Horror is in great hands and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina stands poised to please horror fans that hunger for something beyond zombies, vampires and other overplayed monsters.
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Image Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly have it all - fame, fortune, and access to time suits that would win them a dozen Nobel Prizes each. Access to any and every era, these two heroes could change the universe as we know it.
Or they could just use their power to indulge every hedonistic whim across the timestream.
Being Mark Millar heroes, the self-indulgence of Chrononauts' protagonists is probably not surprising - and for some critics, not always endearing - but it's admittedly funny, as this second issue finishes the table-setting of the first. With great power comes great opportunity, and while the overarching story has yet to truly unfold, Millar and Sean Murphy are continuing to raise the stakes.
Following the cliffhanger from the first issue of Chrononauts, Reilly has leapt into the breach, looking for his best bro for life - and that's when Millar flips the script. This isn't some sort of trek to save time and space - on the contrary, Quinn is out for number one, and it doesn't take long for Reilly to be convinced. In that regard, Chrononauts is kind of a funny book - I mean, while superhuman abilities usually put comic book protagonists on some sort of higher calling, Quinn and Reilly are amassing armies, hording treasure and technology, and juggling women from every era you can think of. (Not to mention snapping phone pictures at a certain site in Bethlehem.) Given the Hollywood-chasing ethos of Millar - let's face it, that man collects Hollywood deals like some kids collect baseball cards - it's perhaps fitting that his heroes are looking to exploit their innovation to pursue the good life. After all, outside forces will almost assuredly derail their gravy train before too long, am I right?
Art-wise, the shifting scenes mean that Sean Murphy has ample room to stretch himself, as our heroes bounce from ancient Egypt to feudal Japan to the roaring Twenties. Murphy's scratchy linework feels very appropriate for these rough around the edges characters, but never at the cost of the human emotion underneath. (One panel, where Quinn feels the pang of homesickness, is a great visual.) Of course, there's just a lot of fun ideas at play here, like flying an F-16 past a looming dinosaur or the technology-infused paradise of Samarkand. Occasionally Milllar tries to pack a little too much into one page, and there Murphy suffers a bit - for example, the first few pages could have stood to use a panel or two less - but ultimately, this artwork lends a roguish charm to what could otherwise be some very unsympathetic characters. Colorist Matt Hollingsworth grounds the story with a desaturated palette, but he cranks up the energy by giving his pages fiery reds and cool blues.
One of the bigger issues I had with the first issue of Chrononauts is fixed here, in the fact that we now have a solid first act to hinge the rest of the story upon. Admittedly, there are some tics in the writing that are endemic to Millar's oeuvre - in particular, characters that can come off as self-serving and unlikeable, no matter how much bromance is thrown into the mix to try to lighten the mood. In certain way, you can't help but root for the antagonists of this book, as it's obvious Quinn and Reilly need to be stopped before the timestream is completely mucked up. But for now, this is a fun side trip, and it'll be interesting to see where Millar and Murphy take their "heroes" next.
Giant Days #2
Written by John Allison
Art by Lissa Treiman
Lettering by Jim Campbell
Published by BOOM! Box
Review by Oscar Maltby
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
The dreaded freshman flu hits Esther, Susan and Daisy like a brick in Giant Days #2, the second issue of John Allison's witty take on university life. Set in the same universe (and featuring one of its characters) as his long-running webcomic Scarygoround, Allison's teamed up with Lissa Treiman to produce a contemporary slice of life book that fans of Batgirl, Gotham Academy and Archie's recent output should adore.
It's the first month of freshman life for Esther, Susan and Daisy, and they haven't gotten ill... yet! After receiving the end of a messy coffee-sneeze in the communal lounge, they quickly curse themselves for having tempted fate. As Esther runs out of clean clothes to wear and Susan struggles with her denied cigarette addiction, Daisy feels surprisingly good, thanks to a pack of dodgy Polish pep pills.
John Allison perfectly captures the lack of sense and sensibility that young adults away from home often struggle with, whilst penciller Lissa Treiman's elastic style helpfully caricatures the full rainbow of teenage emotion. Meanwhile, Whitney Cogar uses Treiman's sparse backgrounds to her advantage, filling dead space with vivid colors to better express each panel's tone.
Treiman's artwork drifts between inspired and rushed. She portrays Esther and Daisy's funk with particular style, especially during Daisy's strung-out antics or Esther's gothic fever dreams, but often skimps on background detail. Treiman's wavy armed posing is the furthest thing from Allison's own rigid pencilling style,
Visually, Treiman had to overcome the problem that Giant Days #2 is a book mostly consisting of dialogue. It's a slice-of-life book, no one's going to be kneeing bad guys through walls or skydiving onto sharks, but Treiman's dynamic panel composition elevates Allison's simple interaction scenes into theatrical displays. Susan gesticulates wildly, Daisy slumps across panels like a rag-doll thrown down the stairs and Esther slides through her world like a drunken slug. If the devil's in the details, then call Lissa Treiman Satan.
Letterer Jim Campbell (as prolific as ever) is invisible when he needs to be, but still capable of flourish when required; such as when Daisy hallucinates a talking pigeon and in the shakiness of the afflicteds' words.
John Allison makes a surprisingly little amount of plot work to his advantage here, fleshing out the unique perspectives of each of his main characters by exploring their reaction to sudden onset flu. Allison's dedication to fleshing out his unlikely trio as independent characters as well as a strong house of young women should pay off in spades as the series continues. Allison's use of onomatopoeia is another unique feature of his script, which includes such colorful sound effects as “SNRT SNRT SFT” and “DOOK DOOK DOOK”.
The relationship between Susan and McGraw continues to simmer here, not really expanding on the nature of their past but upping the ante with an understated but realistic chance meeting. As far as the other two main characters go, there hasn't really been as much for them to chew on. Daisy's burgeoning friendship with Ed Gemmel continues, whilst Esther stays away as a result of her recent terrible luck with boys. With the McGraw storyline, Susan is quickly establishing herself as the main character. The seeds have been sown for everyone, but only Susans' are bearing any fruit just yet.
John Allison and Lissa Treiman have created another witty and colorful comic book with Giant Days #2. Allison's firm grasp of characterisation means he could write any kind of story with his well-established sandbox, and this issue is another true-to-life yet ridiculous insight into the lives of three headstrong teenagers.