“The Turning” (part 1)
Writer: Tania Del Rio
Artist(s): Tania Del Rio, Jim Amash (i), Jason Jensen (c), Phil Felix (l)
Publisher: Archie Comics
The first part of “The Turning” is probably the weakest issue of Tania Del Rio’s thirty-two issue run on this title. That’s not to say it’s a bad issue. It isn’t. There’s some beautiful work on display in places. However, as a whole, it tends to fall below the bar of excellence Del Rio has set for the series.
As the first issue of a new storyline, readers have the expectation of seeing something new, be it the introduction of new characters, or familiar characters finding themselves in a new situation. And generally readers expect both an A and a B plot that will eventually converge. And unreasonable individuals that they can be, readers also want something “big” to happen – a moment that means something to both the characters and the reader. Even if it’s something as small as two favorite characters finally holding hands.
Generally Del Rio gives her fans these things in every single issue. Except this time. “The Turning” has Sabrina playing with her new wands. She plays with them in front of Hilda. Then she shows them to Shinji. Then she shows them to Llandra. And that’s basically the story.
The art is uniformly good, with some panels being excellent. Del Rio obviously enjoyed returning bad boy wizard Shinji to the forefront of the story as he has several good looking poses. He gets a beautiful “fashion” shot on one page that basically has him reaching right out to the reader. His fans will want multiple copies of this issue, just so they can rip out that page for their lockers. Del Rio also spends a lot of time this issue focusing on his expressions. They run the gamut from playfully sexy to concerned to super-deformed cute to angry.
There’s a stunning two page action sequence that has Sabrina being stalked and attacked by magical beasts. It’s a mix of chibi shock and action. Del Rio and Jim Amash combine to make Sabrina look as if she were really moving. The swing of her sweater vest, the bob of her hair, and the sense of weight they’re able to imbue the teen witch with give a sense of motion to the proceedings. The timely use of tight shots and sudden pull-backs also throws the reader into the scene and creates a sense of urgency.
Those looking for an emotionally wrenching sequence will find one of Del Rio’s best here. The six panel progression showing Sabrina crossing paths with the memory-wiped Harvey and his gal pal Amy can’t be beat. The perspective, composition, and angle of the panels are familiar to shojo fans, but Del Rio takes the tropes and makes them her own.
As always the coloring is fantastic. The way Jason Jensen colors the gutters, moving from one shade to another, is an especially effective story-telling tool. Without it being an outright bleed, it adds to the illusion of movement between panels and makes the space part of the story. It creates a greater sense of unity within the scene, while still allowing it to breathe.
It’s only the story that’s somewhat disappointing. Actually, it’s not a story. And that’s the problem. Del Rio gives the readers a series of beautifully crafted vignettes: Sabrina and Hilda, Sabrina and Shinji, Sabrina and Batty, Sabrina and the creatures in the woods, Sabrina with Harvey and Amy, and Sabrina and Llandra.
All of these scenes reveal something about Sabrina’s character and the wands’ effect on her, but a series of scenes, no matter how well done, does not make a story. It’s a surprising failure on Del Rio’s part. In defiance of the industry tendency to write for the trade, she has always given readers a complete story in each issue. While this is a set-up chapter, given her past work, it should have been able to stand on its own as a story in itself. Fans of the series aren’t going to want to miss this chapter; but new readers should beware and find an earlier issue to start with.
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