The Week In Ink: February 18, 2009

Believe it or not, there are times when I’d like to just skip all the formalities and get straight to the reviews…

 

 

…but business comes before pleasure!

Yes, the grand Capcom tradition of having the most ridiculous hair this side of Final Fantasy lives on in both comic and video game form, but alas, there’s no time to throw hadoukens, as it’s time for another round of the Internet’s Most Magical Comics Reviews!

Here’s what I got this week…

 

 

…and in a moment, what I thought about them. But first, I’d just like to say that this is honestly one of the best weeks for new comics we’ve had in a while. There’s great stuff from guys like Paul Tobin, Jeff Parker and Phil Hester, Matt Fraction is in the middle of one of the most fun X-Men stories we’ve had in a long time, and even GI Joe Origins is Larry Hama at his fun, just-kooky-enough best. There’s even a couple of milestones for me personally, as the last issue of Birds of Prey ends its 108-month streak as the comic I’ve been reading the longest without stopping, and the arrival of Teenagers from the Future means that you can now buy something I wrote at your local comic book store! So yeah, a pretty good week.

But really, there’s only one comic that’s really important this time around.

 


 

ISB BEST OF THE WEEK

 

 

Sabrina the Teenage Witch #100: It’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in the world of comic books, but truly, this is the end of an era.

Specifically, it’s the end of writer/artist Tania Del Rio’s tenure on the book, which redefined Sabrina not only in terms of its manga-influenced art, but in the fact that it abandoned the traditional gag strip format in favor of a more cohesive adventure story, which is something the folks over at Archie comics have very rarely attempted. They’ve been dabbling in it more recently with the “new look” story arcs, but while I have sincere doubts that they would’ve even gone that far without Del Rio’s success, they’re really just putting a fresh coat of paint on the same old stories.

With Sabrina, however, it was different. There are people who felt like the manga-style art (not to mention the similarly shojo-meets-Harry Potter direction of the stories themselves) was something of a slap in the face to Sabrina creator Dan DeCarlo–and it wouldn’t be the first one–but in reality, Del Rio was exactly what the book needed to avoid the stagnation that permeates the rest of the line.

Sabrina’s always been one of the more marketable corners of the Archie universe, and it’s worth noting that after the popular success and eventual decline of the live-action show starring Melissa Joan Hart, it was retooled again as a Saturday morning cartoon, with the current series launched as a tie-in that featured what are without a doubt some of the worst comics Archie has ever published. Seriously, they’re still running those things in Betty & Veronica Digest, and even by the formulaic standards of the rest of the line, they are darn near unreadable. Just think of the regular Archie comics, and then imagine what would happen if they tried to dumb them down even more.

The series was eventually reverted to the more traditional version of Sabrina–you know, the one where she’s actually a teenage witch–but the very nature of Archie comics limited what could be done with the character. After all, a teenage witch is a great gimmick, but even Jughead’s Time Police had a little forward momentum to allow things to play out, and by sticking to the time-capsule storytelling, interest was bound to fade. Thus, Tania Del Rio was brought in to capitalize on the growing success of manga among young readers by completely revamping the title, and while Archie missed the boat in typical fashion by only ever collecting one volume in trade, the result is something truly epic.

Really: Del Rio’s run on Sabrina lasted an incredible forty-two issues. In today’s market of twelve-issue written-for-the-trade runs, that’s almost unheard of, but to give you some historical context, it’s only three issues less than Walt Simonson on Thor, Alan Moore on Swamp Thing, or Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, all of which were, coincidentally, 45-issue runs. Although actually, now that I’m thinking of it, Thor had a few fill-ins, which means that Tania Del Rio did more on Sabrina than Walt Simonson did on Thor.

And she defined the character just as much. In her 42 issues, Sabrina not only juggled her dual lives and her romances with classic love interest Harvey and new, blue-haired Shinji, but also–and again, I am serious–joined a secret underground organization designed to overthrow the government of the magical realm. That’s right: Sabrina was an anarchist in a witchity secessionist militia, and that was before the unforgettable Duality Wands arc where she was briefly turned evil and started wiping people’s memories. Seriously, it was like Identity Crisis, only written by someone with talent.

And all of it has led up to this issue, the thundering climax of the story where the Four Blades unite with Queen Seles to stop Vosblanc from destroying the Mana Tree, and really, it’s got all the action you’d expect. Spells, explosions, Sabrina turning into a tiger and riding a flying carpet, hell, somebody dies in this story, and I’m pretty sure nobody’s gotten killed in an Archie Comic in like thirty years! It is nuts.

But it’s also pretty exciting, and it’s the kind of well-done climax that you can tell was neatly planned and years in the making. And while it does get a little maudlin at the end, well, it’s a shojo-style Sabrina the Teenage Witch; I think a little melodrama is to be expected. Either way, it’s a fitting end for Del Rio’s run, with a payoff that actually lives up to the stakes it raised along the way.

As for the future, well, the next arc on Sabrina is going to be a four-part story about Salem from not only before he was a cat–as Del Rio did a few months back in a story that proved to be the lynchpin of the whole Four Blades saga–but even before he was an evil wizard bent on world domination, which doesn’t really excite me, although there are lizardmen and swords involved, so who knows? And as for Del Rio herself, she’s apparently working on a new Katy Keene story, but for my money, I’d love to see her do an ongoing, movie-style Josie and the Pussycats. She did a few JATP backups in Archie & Friends a while back, and while I’m not sure how they went over with the fans, I think taking the characters as established rock stars and throwing them into adventures (in Persia, or maybe France) would be right up her alley.

Well, that or my long-awaited Crisis In Riverdale, but I’m still waiting to hear back on that one.

 


 

And that’s the week. As always, feel free to add to the discussion in the comments section below, but please: Sabrina-related questions only.

43 thoughts on “The Week In Ink: February 18, 2009

  1. wow, NOTHING about the other comics, eh? that Sabrina comic must have been as amazing as you claim, to have taken over your post entirely.

  2. 1) I really thought that said Birdy and Veronica, with all the Capcom talk at the front.

    2) So the Sabrina series was kinda like W.I.N.X. Club and W.I.T.C.H., huh?

  3. I vote Sabrina and Salem leave the Archie-verse for the Marvel-verse. And join the Guardians of the Galaxy. ‘Cause honestly that books needs more female characters AND talking animals…

  4. Hey, thanks for giving Tania Del Rio’s run on Sabrina the kudos it deserves! It was consistently one of the best reads on the market and one of the last monthly pamphlets I bought faithfully.

    Sabrina and Del Rio totally justified that faith, and the people who missed out because the book looked “manga” or “girly” or it wasn’t from Marvel/DC missed out.

    Tough luck, kids.

  5. Lurker Without, everything needs more female characters and talking animals. That’s why I’m looking forward to the Watchmen adaptation.

  6. “(Sabrina) joined a secret underground organization designed to overthrow the government of the magical realm. That’s right: Sabrina was an anarchist in a witchity secessionist militia.”

    So, it’s like The Invisibles, then.

  7. TheDude Says:
    Is Avengers the only title on the Marvel Adventures line worth reading?
    Super-Heroes is also worth getting. So is Spider-Man. I haven’t much use for the Hulk, and the FF tends to be a bit weaker, but still occasionally really knocks one out of the park (“I am Reed Richards… and these are my toasters.”).

    I’m betting Chris is more or less on this page, but probably likes Hulk where I don’t.

  8. I was a rabid reader of Betty’s Diary and some other Archie titles as a kid, but for some reason I’ve never picked up Sabrina. This post, though, makes me want to hit the next local comics show and scoop up all the back issues. Kudos for highlighting this, Chris!

  9. Well, this is interesting– you’ve made me want to go out and pick up a comic MARKETED TO FEMALES.

    That’s like, never happened. Ever.

    You had me at “anarchist in a witchity secessionist militia”.

  10. How does MA: Avenger not even get at least a partial review? Wolverine eaten by a dinosaur? Twice? That alone is worth Marvel’s normal prices. Plus it’s nice to see Tobin FINALLY use MA Bruce.

    Now if the covers would go back to being more than the characters standing around or in an action pose heading to an “offscreen” battle, it’d be perfect. But still…Wolverine. Eaten by dinos. TWICE!

  11. “(Sabrina) joined a secret underground organization designed to overthrow the government of the magical realm. That’s right: Sabrina was an anarchist in a witchity secessionist militia.”
    So, it’s like The Invisibles, then.

    Oh man. “Grant Morrison’s Sabrina: The Teenage Witch” is a comic book I’d DEFINITELY buy.

  12. I’ve been wondering about MJH (as the kids call her). I remember there was that kerfuffle about her doing cheesecake photos in some douchebag magazine, and then her kind of completely backing down and apologizing and then nothing. Did the forces of evil get offended by her turning her back on them? Did someone decide that Kirsten Dunst made her redundant, the way Tobey McGuire’s success poisoned the movie well for Topher Grace, Elijah Wood and Zach Braff?? Did she just take time off to have kids?

  13. This is not a question, so hopefully I’ve found a clever loophole in your Sabrina-only edict. You’ve made me aware of a number of titles I might not have otherwise purchased. I thought I might try my luck at returning the favor. I noticed Moon Knight is not on your purchase list. Admittedly the current volume of Moon Knight has been disappointing, as was the 1990′s Marc Spector: Moon Knight and the late 1980′s Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu. However, the last two issues of Moon Knight (#26 and #27) have featured: solid writing, decent art, amazing covers, a trip to Mexico, fight clubs, drug lords, Russian mobsters, corrupt federales, a damsel in distress, a serial killer, the Punisher, and luchadores! And this is all in one hard-boiled storyline. I haven’t been this excited about a Moon Knight storyline since the classic Moench / Sienkewicz stories of the early 1980′s.

  14. @ Tim C:
    anything that poisons Zach Braff will always make the world a better place.

    As for MJH, yeah, I can’t understand why she just vanished since it’s not like they’re bursting with talent in Hollywood.

    What’s even more weird is that the last time I saw her was in a movie with the guy that plays Vince in Entourage. And anybody that acts opposite him will come across as Lawrence Olivier in comparison so I can’t imagine why she didn’t get more offers after that

  15. Everything you have ever said about Sabrina has made me want to read it, but now, Mr. Sims, you have me just about ready to actually go to an actual comic shop and hunt through actual back issue bins to put together an actual run, which is something I have never before done. Actually.

  16. Argh. I don’t have room to store 42 more issues of anything, and this sounds like a lot of fun! How unfair that they’re not interested in selling me some nice, compact trades.

  17. It is a testament to your writing skills and genuine love of comics that I actually read your review and thought “I want to read that!”

    And I grew up reading Archie comics, so it’s not like I’m opposed to reading Sabrina…it’s just not something I thought would actually happen.

  18. Not a question, just a Me Too re the Matt Fraction love: I haven’t enjoyed reading an X-title so much in years..

  19. I wouldn’t write off the upcoming “young salem” arc – Chad Thomas does some amazing things with the freedom to establish his own style in the book

  20. And since Jeff Parker is mentioned in the intro: Mysterius the Unfathomable is the best book, out of the gate, that I’ve read in the last 6 months.

    (The art has a tangy, Mort Drukerish/Al Jaffe-like flavor that our panel just loved.)

  21. Here’s a Sabrina related question for ya: Why is it not Godland? Why isn’t every comic Godland?

  22. I know this is late, but it’s been pointed out to me that while there’s only one Sabrina trade, Archie offers entire years’ worth of issues at their Sabrina Store. No back issue hunting necessary to get the whole run!

  23. I’ve been buying Sabrina for my daughter, and while I haven’t been reading them I have flipped through them to admire the art. Strong composition and innovative page designs gives the her work of a sense of energy even when it’s just two characters talking.

    I think I will send DC a email telling them to snap Ms. Del Rio up. Not that I expect them to listen to me, but the thought of her doing a Speedy mini-series or a run on Supergirl is to cool to pass up.

  24. Sounds great! I just came back from mexico last week and find myself addicted to these incredible enchilada recipes now!! Must go back next year sometime, I think, and this time head off of the beaten track a little. Looking to reading more!