Tag Archives: dark fantasy

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Issue #7

It has been a full year since the last issue of Sabrina came out, probably because Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was busy writing for the television show “Riverdale” (which I watched with my daughter and is quite good). Although it was a long wait, it was well worth it. The quality of this comic, in terms of both writing and visual artistic style, sets it in a class by itself.

Essentially, this is the back story concerning Sabrina’s father, Edward Spellman, who is resurrected and inhabiting the body of Sabrina’s boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle (a little Electra complex happening here). Edward recounts his initiation into the dark arts, his rise to power in the Church of Satan, and how he came to be imprisoned in the limbo dimension.

This installment is dark and disturbing on multiple levels. The content is macabre, the imagery intense, it is psychologically distressing, and the tale leaves the reader with a sense of tension and foreboding which is stoked by what is left unsaid. For truly, it is the unknown possibilities that stir the deepest fear within us, and Aguirre-Sarcasa is a master when it comes to leaving just enough of the story hidden to evoke the most profound terror in the reader.

Readers should be warned that this is not a comic for the timid. But if you love the macabre and long to peer into the stuff of nightmares, then get thee to the store and buy a copy.

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“Tales from the Darkside” Issues 2 – 4: Manifestations of the Shadow Self

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I decided to wait until all three issues in this mini-series were published so I could read them consecutively, and I’m glad I did. Sometimes I forget some of the details from the earlier installments in a serialized arc.

This story is about the struggle between the conscious mind and the primordial shadow part of the psyche. The main character, Brian Newman, finds himself in a struggle with a manifestation of his shadow self, who he calls the “big winner.” The big winner is the opposite of Newman, who is timid, uncertain, and withdrawn. Big winner is more like the trickster archetype: capricious, boisterous, and prone to the chaotic. As the big winner begins to take control of his reality, Newman agrees to undergo experimental surgery to gain control of this darker self. As you can imagine, things do not end well.

Before the surgery, the doctor explains to Newman that the manifestation of his shadow self is the result of a brain abnormality.

The anomaly in your brain is connected to an overdeveloped amygdala, a more primitive part of your mind. The part of you that can distort reality – this big winner – is undoubtedly very id like. Impulsive. Childish. A sort of negative image of yourself.

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The surgery does not go as planned, and instead of reigning in the shadow self, that darker aspect of reality becomes the prevalent reality. What is so fascinating about this concept is that, truthfully, our reality is based solely on perception that is agreed upon by the majority of people. But this begs the question: what happens when the paradigm of reality shifts? And this is what occurs in issue 4.

Here we encounter two kids who are constantly wired into their devices. They are obsessed with a sort of virtual reality app that allows them to control the “windows” through which they view their world. What they create through the app manifests in reality, and their darkest fantasies are manifest. What is eerily accurate about this portrayal is that virtual reality gaming can actually tap into the primordial center of the brain, the amygdala. Is it possible that virtual reality will one day alter our actual reality? It’s a thought-provoking question.

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Because the darkside becomes a part of them. It waits for them when they close their eyes, when they sleep… if they ever sleep again. Just below the surface of what they think is real… the darkside is always waiting.

Anyway, this arc is a great read. The writing and artwork are outstanding, and the concepts are challenging and relevant to our world today. I highly recommend giving this series a read.

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House of Penance: Issue 04 – The Addictive Power of Violence

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I really like this series and its exploration of issues of sin and atonement. The artwork is dark and surreal and the writing is sparse yet moving. But this installment in the series also explores the related issue of addiction, specifically addiction to violence.

My favorite definition of addiction is that it is the constant searching for something outside yourself to change the way you feel within. For this reason, you can become addicted to anything that elicits a powerful feeling inside, and violence can certainly fall into that category. I have known people in my younger days who were addicted to the adrenaline rush of violent behavior, starting fights for no reason other than the thrill of the fight.

In this issue of the graphic novel, there is a scene where several men who are serving their penance for violent acts discover a room that houses confiscated weapons waiting destruction. The men stare through the glass with a deep longing in their eyes, like the recovering alcoholic struggling with internal conflict as he stares through the window of a liquor store.

If we honestly look at our society—the films we watch, the books we read, the games we play—we are forced to admit that we are a society that is addicted to violence, and yet we act surprised and abhorred when we hear stories of people actually committing violent acts. Now I am not condoning the censorship of violence in the arts, just as I would not condone banning alcohol, but we need to acknowledge that violence, just like drugs, is addictive and remain vigilant with ourselves.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Issue #6

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Another excellent installment in this arc! I keep thinking that the creative team cannot possibly keep up the quality of the writing and artwork, but yet with every issue I am astounded and impressed.

This issue is based upon a discussion between three familiars: Salem, the cat; and Nag and Nagaina, two cobras. They share the tales about how they were all once human but were transformed into animals. These tales of transformation comprise the issue.

What is so brilliant about this story is that it makes reference to numerous stories and folk tales that are part of our culture. There are allusions to Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Kipling, the Arabian Nights, pirate folklore, and so on. So what this short installment in the graphic series manages to achieve in just a few pages is demonstrate how stories cycle through our history, that our society and culture is guided by the stories that have been retold through generations.

As with so much great literature, you can read this without knowing the references to “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” or having never read “Rikki Tikki Tavi” and still enjoy it for the sheer elegance of the3 writing and the evocative artwork. But having knowledge of these texts adds another level of depth to the tale, making it interesting to a literature nerd like myself as well as being an entertaining read for the average reader.

There is nothing I love more than stories that serve as portals to literature, opening the vistas of the literary world to people who may not have been exposed to it. This is definitely one of those portal tales, or gateway drugs, enticing you into the wonderful world of art and the imagination.

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Tales from the Darkside: Issue 01

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On my last trip to Comic Envy, the owner had added a new comic to my folder, thinking it would be something I might find interesting. He obviously knows my taste. This is the first installment of a new series based on the television series of the same name. When I was younger, I watched “Tales from the Darkside” a lot. The program featured short vignettes about supernatural occurrences. I found it to be like a modern Twilight Zone, creepy tales, usually with a twist at the end. Anyway, I was definitely intrigued by the comic.

So this tale is about a lifeguard who falls asleep at work, resulting in the drowning death of a woman. He gets off in court, but is consumed with guilt and remorse. Then something strange begins to happen. He starts having a narcoleptic effect on people. Everyone he encounters falls into a deep sleep, adding to his psychological isolation and torment.

In keeping with the original television series, there is a nice twist at the end. Sorry, I’m not going to spoil it. You’ll have to read it for yourself.

I will definitely continue reading this. The next tale will be delivered in two installments. I’m thinking I will wait until I have both issues, then read them consecutively, so you will have to wait a while for the next post on this graphic novel. But remember…

The darkside is always there,
waiting for us to enter—
waiting to enter us.
Until next time,
Try to enjoy the daylight.

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House of Penance: Issue 03

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With all the debate about guns in the US right now, there is a quote from this installment that really resonated with me.

You entered this house, Mr. Peck, on your own volition. You stay here because you want to. Because you need to. Each “blam” of a hammer reminds these workers of the blood they have spilt, be it innocent or guilty. Listening to the sound of a gun twenty-four hours a day is their penance—for embracing all that a gun has to offer.

There is poetic justice here, and I cannot help but think of the levels of Dante’s Inferno. We each must answer for our actions, and the punishment we face is often that of our own creation.

There is a lot going on in the world right now. Change is everywhere, and so is tension. I feel like we are on the threshold of something huge. I hear the constant drumming of the hammers as our new reality is being forged.

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House of Penance: Issue 02

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Wow, this is really a dark and disturbing tale. The imagery feels like it was conjured out of a nightmare. Tendrils of pain, regret, and suffering writher from floorboards and cracks, entwining individuals and drawing them into the darker realms of despair and insanity. Visually, this is some of the most psychologically disturbing material I have ever seen. But you just can’t look away.

There is one great section in this issue where Sara is melting down guns and pouring the molten metal into molds to create hammers. The accompanying text is reminiscent of something you would read in Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil.

From darkness comes light. Tools of death birth tools of life. From destruction… comes construction.

I am really enjoying this so far. If any of you are also reading this graphic novel, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Cheers!

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