Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Magic Revisited
It’s about time! Archie finally got around to collecting the first four issues of the Sabrina the Teenage Witch revamp, Sabrina #58-61 (2004), as a digest. Although the content is strongly manga-influenced, as written and drawn by Tania del Rio, it has little else in common with that format — this book is color, it’s only 112 pages (a little more than half the length of most manga), and it’s priced halfway between Tokyopop’s young readers price point ($6) and the “regular” manga cost of $9-11.
In fact, what it resembles most is DC’s superhero digest format for young readers, and I find it interesting that this finally appeared after DC and Archie began cross-selling advertising.
The back cover feels the need to explain what manga is and that Sabrina got a makeover in her 42nd year. The text seems calculated to turn off the readers that would be most interested in this material. What does the new reader, attracted by the manga look and feel, care about how old the character is? In fact, isn’t there a risk of them being turned off by being reminded of how long the character had been around and that she needed to be freshened up? Won’t they dislike being talked down to about what manga is?
Poor packaging decisions aside, the character is very well-suited to the style, and Tania del Rio’s work has lots of energy. It also reduces well, along with the lettering, a major concern when comic book-sized work is reprinted in a smaller format. The bright candy colors have plenty of punch, and the lack of traditional gutters creates full, active layouts.
The plots involve Sabrina learning when to use and not use her magic, whether she’s trying to keep Shinji from blowing his cover in the mortal world or trying to balance conflicting responsibilities. There’s lots going on in the stories, with plenty of choices for Sabrina: romance with mortal Harvey or exotic wizard Shinji? studying in high school or learning spells at charm school? Then there’s the need to hide her abilities from rival Amy. The creator keeps things hopping, with new twists every few pages. The subplots and character bits make the book seem like a good value, and plot twists range from comedy to meaningful life lessons. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)