The Chilling Adventures of Salem #1
Salem, the talking cat familiar of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, solves a mystery revolving around kidnapped - and possessed - animals.
If you’re searching for a comic to help you start the “spooky season” off right, it would be hard to go wrong with Archie Comics’ The Chilling Adventures of Salem. The one-shot follows the witch Sabrina’s talking cat pal Salem as he tries to save kidnapped animals from a (rather one-note) goateed power-hungry sorcerer who is ritually summoning demons to take over their bodies. There’s nothing particularly new about this comic in terms of its narrative, but there is something charmingly old.
The cover of The Chilling Adventures of Salem, drawn by the comic’s interior artist Dan Schoening, depicts Salem’s hissing face and a few glowing-eyed animals in silhouette, reminiscent of various covers for Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. Some digitally-added scuff marks and paper texturing throughout the issue (all courtesy of colorist Matt Herms) further the feeling of having stumbled upon a horror comic from the 70s or 80s rather than one published in 2022. From its visuals to its villain to its (rather predictable) plot, the comic’s creators seem to lean into schlocky B-horror rather than away from it.
That said, the comic’s cultivated schlock shouldn’t be mistaken for an actual lack of skill. Writer Cullen Bunn, perhaps better known for his horror comic Harrow County, writes some humorously over-the-top dialogue for the comic’s antagonists and writes Salem with a perfect mix of snark and menace. Their voices feel perfectly captured by letterer Jack Morelli. Artist Dan Schoening’s design for the sorcerer antagonist is delightfully cheesy, with over-the-top body language, pointed eyebrows, and a goatee (and the fact that he looks like a cross between Vincent Price and Peter Cushing and is sacrificing animals), all screaming Capital-V Villain. That said, Schoening also draws animals beautifully. This also makes one of the comic’s earliest scenes surprisingly visceral – one of the few real scares in a comic with mostly “spooks” (though your mileage may vary). Herms’ colors are mostly desaturated, with the exception of some punchy oranges and reds, adding a touch of realism and far more than a touch of melodrama.
A rather brisk read, this comic certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. If anything, it understands it. And even if Archie eventually announces a longer series following this one-shot (and I am begging them to), it’s worth savoring every second.
The Chilling Adventures of Salem is equal parts skilfully crafted and charmingly cheesy. If you’re searching for a horror comic to help you start the Halloween season off right, you can’t go wrong with this.
The Chilling Adventures of Salem: The Cat’s Meow
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 7.5/107.5/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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