Monday, June 8, 2015

Witness the Rite of Unholy Baptism in CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #3!

I really hope that you have been reading CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA, published by Archie Comics. There was a huge gap (like, six months!) between the first and second issue, but they seem to have ironed out their wonky publishing schedule and published their third issue within a month of the second.

Issue #3 actually came out a couple weeks ago, but I've been having a difficult time figuring out how to blog about it. Each issue is so dense -- so full of good material. It's difficult to parse out a panel or highlight a quip. Everything matters and everything is good.

Here's what's been happening. Sabrina has been living with her witchy aunts, Zelda and Hilda since being forcibly removed from her warlock father and her mortal mother. They have been raising her in Greendale with the help of Sabrina's familiar, Salem, and her shady cousin, Ambrose.

Back in issue #1, she used some love magic to grab the attention of local BMOC Harvey Kinkle. This seemingly silly (but forbidden) moment seems to have signaled the resurrection of an evil witch named Madam Satan. She was Edward Spellman's jilted lover and literally threw herself into the lion's den after she was dumped for his new mortal lover. She came back and immediately began stalking Edward and Diana.

Unfortunately, a nurse's innocent comment brought Sabrina's existence to Madame Satan's attention. Madame Satan has now settled in Greendale and inserted herself into the life of Greendale High School, in order to cause as much trouble as possible for Edward's mixed-blood daughter.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #3 starts on October 31, 1966, the eve of Sabrina's 16th birthday. According to tradition, this is the age where young witches make the conscious decision to dedicate her life and soul to Satan's power. If Sabrina doesn't complete this baptism ritual, she will continue her life as a mortal. She will retain her magical gifts, but they will decline over time.

Madame Satan is determined to disrupt Sabrina's baptism, expertly pulling strings that eventually lead Harvey -- a lowly mortal male -- to the ceremony's location, using his sexual tension and jealousy against him. I have no clue what will happen once a Satanic baptism is interrupted, but I suspect that we might discover the ramifications of such an action in the following issues of this comic book!

Ever since Archie Comics started working on these serious horror comic books, I have been surprised by how... alien the publisher has made Sabrina and her aunts. They were always witches and outcasts before and I admit that I didn't regularly read her earlier books (outside of the first issues of the SABRINA MANGA stories). But they are much more creepy in recent stories than I seem to remember them. Worshipping demons and elder gods and sacrificing children and practicing necrophilic cannibalism... It's pretty out there!

But there's also a warmth to this oddball family that particularly shines in CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #3. It is compelling for me to watch Zelda and Hilda teach and prepare Sabrina for her baptism. It is very important for Sabrina to learn her heritage and to make a conscious decision to fully embrace the Dark Lord's gift of witchcraft.

The ceremony itself is complicated. Besides the need for young witches to keep their minds and bodies pure before accepting Satan's gift (hence, the source for Harvey's sexual frustration), but they must fast for an entire day prior to the baptism ceremony. The baptism is to be held on the first full moon following the witch's 16th birthday -- which, in Sabrina's case, happens to be on her birthday itself.

The coven prepares a clearing within the woods, complete with a stone altar. A sacrificial goat is chosen for the young witch, which she uses to ride to the baptismal site. The young witch must then walk through the Blue Fire, which appears to be another cleansing process -- more for her soul, as opposed to her body.

After the coven arrives, everyone dances under the blood-moon until the arrival of the Queen of the Sabbath, who arrives on the back of a black stag. The Sabbath Queen then gives the gift of Unholy Communion to the young witch. Because the Dark Lord detests flour and salt -- key ingredients within bread commonly used during Christian Communion. As a result, these Unholy Communion wafers are prepared from a recipe of crushed crickets, spiders, and flies.

The young witch the slaughters her sacrificial goats on the stone altar. That blood sacrifice then triggers the arrival of Satan himself. He is holding an enormous black book. The young witch receives a bone-quill pen and must sign her name within his tome, signaling her intent to become one of Satan's handmaidens.

And that, more or less, is how a young witch goes through baptism and dedicates her soul to Satanism.

But, once again, I'm not sure what happens once a Satanic baptism is interrupted. It's one thing to not initiate the ceremony. But what happens if one invites Satan within your presence, but then he gets turned away -- for whatever reason. I cannot imagine that this will turn out well.

"Unholy Baptism" was written by Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa, with artwork by Robert Hack and lettering by Jack Morelli.

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