Writer: Tania del Rio
Art: Jim Amash, Jason Jensen (c), Phil Felix (l)
Publisher: Archie Comics
“Shattered Lives” is one of those issues that serves as an epilogue to the previous issue’s events and as a prologue for the upcoming storyline, as well as being a stand alone issue for anyone who just happens to pick it up. And it actually fills that position pretty well. It’s just that Tania del Rio tries to accomplish so much within its pages that it falters a bit under its own weight. The scenes don’t have room to breathe.
Sabrina is feeling alienated and lost. Harvey has completely forgotten her thanks to Hilda’s memory wipe. Her feelings of betrayal and anger only increase when she learns her aunts have been lying about her past to her. Meanwhile, Shinji is pushing for the Four Blades to attack and overthrow the Queen of the Magic Realm, but he’s refusing to take Sabrina’s warnings about the traitorous Hemlock seriously.
Tania del Rio experiments with time here in ways that she hasn’t done before; playing off the “Shattered” title by doling out the story in disarrayed fragments, rather than following strict chronological order. Flashbacks within flashbacks confuse the narrative flow, and unfortunately dull the impact of the issue’s big revelation. It’s a plot twist I didn’t see coming, though looking back del Rio has been laying the groundwork for it since issue #68. It’s obviously going to play into the story in a big way and because of that it should feel more important than it does. It’s surprisingly lacking in dramatic presence; mainly because of its physical position in the issue and because there’s not a lot of time given to Sabrina’s reaction to it. Just one more panel, even a silent one (especially a silent one) would have given it the “umph” it needed.
Out of joint time notwithstanding, there are some nice character moments. The extended scene between Sabrina and her mortal friend Gwenevive is beautiful. Gwen is the only mortal who knows Sabrina’s secret now and while she sympathizes with her friend’s problems, she’s also worried about what could happen to her. The conversation between the girls obviously takes place some time after the events of last issue’s Halloween story – there’s snow on the ground now – and yet del Rio makes it clear through dialog and expression that Sabrina’s pain is still fresh. Salem and Pumpkin the dog’s date is another cute bit, leavening the more dramatic bits of the story with some humor.
Tania del Rio uses splintered, shard-like panels to introduce and end the individual scenes, emphasizing the broken pieces of Sabrina’s life, and continuing the shattered theme. Most of the panels are titled, askew and overlapping, reinforcing the idea of a broken mirror whose pieces have fallen where they will. It’s an extremely effective visual metaphor.
The unusually large amount of dialog this issue also adds to the visual storytelling. The speech balloons take up fully half of the panel in many instances. Because of the panels’ size and arrangement, this gives a claustrophobic feeling to the story – like everything is piling up on Sabrina and it’s about to come to a head. It’s to del Rio’s credit that she took a necessity and made it part of the overall effect.
Also, the colors aren’t quite as rich as they have been in previous issues which contribute to the feeling that Sabrina is just drained at this point in her life.
This issue kicks off a celebration of Sabrina’s forty-five years of magic. And while it’s not as spectacular as you could wish for, it’s still a solid issue.
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