The Chilling Adventures of Salem: The Cat’s Meow
If you’re looking for a comic to help get you started on “spooky season,” it would be hard to go wrong with Archie Comics. Salem’s Chilling Adventures. The one-shot follows Salem, the talking cat sidekick of the witch Sabrina, as he attempts to save kidnapped animals from a power-hungry (rather one-note) wizard who ritually summons demons to take control of their body. There is nothing special New about this comic in terms of its storytelling, but it is something lovely Old.
The cover of Salem’s Chilling Adventuresdrawn by interior comic artist Dan Schoening, features Salem’s hissing face and a few glowing-eyed animals in silhouette, reminiscent of various Stephen King covers Pet sematary. Some digitally added scuffs and paper textures throughout the issue (all courtesy of colorist Matt Herms) reinforce the feeling of having stumbled upon a horror comic from the 70s or 80s rather than one published in 2022. From its visuals to its villain to its (rather predictable) sound, the creators of the comic seem to lean into schlocky B horror rather than stray away from it.
That said, the comic’s cultured schlock shouldn’t be confused with an actual lack of skill. Writer Cullen Bunn, perhaps best known for his horror comics County of Harrow, writes humorously over-the-top dialogue for the comic book antagonists, and writes Salem with the perfect blend of snark and menace. Their voices feel perfectly captured by letterer Jack Morelli. Artist Dan Schoening’s design for the Wizard’s antagonist is delightfully nerdy, with exaggerated body language, pointed eyebrows and a goatee (and the fact that he looks like a cross between Vincent Price and Peter Cushing and that he sacrifices animals), all screaming Capital-V Villain. That said, Schoening also draws animals beautifully. It also makes for one of the comic’s earliest scenes surprisingly visceral – one of the few true scares in a comic with mostly “ghosts” (although your mileage may vary). Herms’ colors are mostly desaturated save for a few punchy oranges and reds, adding a touch of realism and more than a hint of melodrama.
A rather quick read, this comic certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. If anything, he understand this. And even if Archie finally announces a longer series following this one-shot (and I’m begging them), it’s worth savoring every second.