Sunday, March 30, 2014

Comic Reviews: Abe Sapien Volumes 1 & 2

The Drowning

    The first volume of Abe Sapien tells the story of his first mission without Hellboy.  Generally speaking, it feels like a Hellboy story, just with Abe put in Red’s place.  I like the premise, and there are a lot of good scenes.  What I don’t like is Abe.  It’s weird, but my recent reading of B.P.R.D. and now reading this, I find myself enjoying Abe less and less.  I don’t know if Mignola isn’t sure what to do with him, or if he is sure, and it’s just not something I respond to.  Like Liz Sherman, Abe has become a sort of listless, self-doubting, sad-sack.  And this first solo (well, he’s got several red-shirt agents along with him…for a few pages) adventure does little to lend him much gravitas.

    As I said, I really do like the premise of the story.  An island which had been a leper colony and the center of a supernatural event, was rededicated to worship of the Sea.  Then something awful happened, and something was buried.  Abe and crew don’t exactly cause the problem, but their arrival sets some stuff in motion, and as often happens in these stories, the proverbial crap hits the fan.  There are more connections drawn to the Hyperboria, Atlantis, and Lemuria, some deep history and some weird magic.  And I really like Jason Shaw Alexander’s artwork.  But, at the end of the day, like in B.P.R.D., Abe is seeming more and more like a shadowy afterthought of Hellboy, like a vessel for unused story ideas that were meant for our doomed hero, but would no longer work for him.

The Devil Does Not Jest and Other Stories

    The second volume feels even more like classic Hellboy, being a bunch of short stories that feature various unrelated events.  That said, it feels like Abe has a bit more personality here.  The Haunted Boy and The Abyssal Plain showcase Abe’s very different, more thoughtful approach to weird events.  The Devil Does Not Jest sets up something really cool, but doesn’t pay off, which was too bad.  Pretty much everything up until the finale was cool.  I wonder if it’ll have any kind of follow-up in future Abe books, or in B.P.R.D.

    The art is a mixed bag, as this is an anthology.  But it’s all passable, at least.  However, I still can’t figure out if I actually like Abe anymore.  He’s such a potentially interesting character, but like several plotlines on Lost, the more you find out, the less interesting he becomes.  There were so many ways to take the character, and it seems like they’ve found most of the bad ones.  As much as I love Hellboy and B.P.R.D., it frustrates me that what was one of my favorite characters feels lost to me, now.  Like I can’t connect to him or to what he’s doing.

Abe Sapien: The Drowning
Author: Mike Mignola
Artist: Jason Shawn Alexander
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
ISBN: 978-1-59582-185-0

Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest and Other Stories
Authors: Mike Mignola & John Arcudi
Artists: Patrick Reynolds, etc.
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
ISBN: 978-1-59582-925-2

-Matthew J. Constantine

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