“The Turning” (part 3)
It’s plants against wands, friend against friend as Llandra challenges Sabrina to a magical duel. In a last ditch attempt to release Sabrina from her wands’ malevolent influence, Llandra, with the ‘help’ of Sabrina’s tutor Batty Bartholomew, attempts to save her friend. But does she stand a chance against Sabrina’s increasingly powerful magic?
Tania Del Rio brings the “Evil Sabrina” storyline to a close with this stunning issue. As a rule, I don’t like stories where the hero or one of her friends turns evil. Didn’t like it when it happened in Sailor Moon, didn’t like it when it happened in Fushigi Yugi. It always strikes me as a stall, as if the writer’s just filling in pages until she figures out what’s going to happen next in the ‘real’ storyline. That said, that wasn’t what Del Rio did with “The Turning”. Despite its having a bumpy start, it grew organically out of what had happened previously and has helped grow the characters. The consequences of Sabrina’s actions here will no doubt play into what happens to the Four Blades further down the line.
There is some good stuff in this comic. The scene where Shinji confronts Sabrina, demanding the mana leaf that’s the key to the Four Blades overthrow of the Queen, and accuses her of failing him is beautifully done. Sabrina displays arrogance, anger, and shame while Shinji shows concern, anger, fear, and sorrow. It’s a great moment between two characters who have been friends and a couple in the past. The Batty-Llandra team-up is absolutely hilarious. The comic possibilities of the down to earth Llandra trying to deal with the addle-brained Batty are exploited to the fullest in Del Rio’s script. “Duct tape. I hear it can fix anything.” Priceless.
Speaking of Llandra, she almost steals this issue from Sabrina. We’ve seen her as the loyal best-friend and as Sabrina’s rival for Shinji; but in this issue we see she’s a formidable witch herself. Her ability to control plants makes her a powerful adversary. She can send messages anywhere in the mortal or magic realm through the plant system. She can make them grow and move, using them as both weapons and restraints. This makes the magical duel less one-sided than it would seem to be at first glance.
The one flaw with the issue is its pacing of the resolution. Two panels – one wordless – and the problem of Sabrina and the wands is settled. As a pay-off it’s somewhat disappointing after all the previous issues’ build-up. It comes off as slightly unrealistic. The reader’s left saying, “That’s it?” One or two panels more for this scene would have made it both more powerful and meaningful.
Stepping in to pencil this issue is Lindsay Cibos, co-creator of Tokyopop’s popular Peach Fuzz. The transition is seamless, thanks in part to a similar style between Del Rio and Cibos to begin with and Jim Amash’s beautiful inks. Cibos draws the characters with a slightly rounder look but it’s something you have to look for to even notice.
Writer and artist are definitely on the same wavelength here. The aforementioned Shinji and Sabrina scene is a perfect example of the artist catching what the writer is trying to convey with words. Shinji’s look after Sabrina tells him she doesn’t have the leaf, when he realizes the Four Blades have no proof that the magic is fading is spot on. Llandra’s expression when she’s trying to get Batty to understand the seriousness of the situation perfectly captures her frustration and fear. And the shot of Sabrina lolling on her broom against the backdrop of the full moon shows Sabrina’s “bad girl” attitude while also being just a beautiful panel.
One of the interesting design choices Cibos makes is to focus on the characters’ hands. They’re always ‘talking’ with them – constantly waving them in other people’s faces or throwing them up in frustration. Llandra especially is prone to do this. Along with the way the characters are continually changing positions between panels, and the well-thought out combinations of close-up, far, and medium distance shots, this produces the feeling of energetic motion. It plays like an anime.
Especially during the fight scene. Llandra is thrown toward the reader by Sabrina’s blast. She struggles to rise. She rolls across the floor to escape. And then she goes on the offensive. The panels slant, take on different shapes, appear without borders. The characters and their accruements burst free of their confines in their energy. This three page scene is very similar in staging to a Sailor Moon episode. If you’re going to have magic girls battle, that’s the series you should tip your hat to. (If Cibos weren’t too young to remember Filmation’s Secrets of Isis, I’d think there was an homage to that show too in one of the Llandra panels.)
Fans of Sabrina or magic girls in general shouldn’t miss this issue.
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