by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie (Writers), Max Fiumara (Artist), Dave Stewart (Colorist)
The Story: Abe learns he is not exactly as effective as in his B.P.R.D. days at battling weirdness as a battle between necromancers emerge in a special corner of America.
The Review: This title is a rather odd one in the larger schemes of things that is known as the Mignolaverse. While some titles have a clear role and a certain angle to cover, Abe Sapien possess one that doesn’t really make the character truly shine in the best of ways most of the time. With the series focusing more on how everyday people live with a resurgence of horror and unexplained events in a more post-apocalyptic world filled with killer creatures, the series got quite close a good number of time to greatness, yet never quite reached it in a way that was consistent.
This very issue, in its own ways, is a perfect example of this, with some decidedly great ideas being presented to the readers as well as some potent character moments, yet it never really converge together to create bigger or more satisfactory moments. There are some points that get across, yet it’s always more elusive ones that never truly satisfy in the best of ways.
One of the better example is the way the very town of Payson seems to be affected by some kind of zombie outbreak. With Abe trying to investigate what’s happening with a bunch of hippies on a golf course close to the town, there are hints of the horror and their implication in the more ominous events in the past few issues. There are, of course, some hints toward their role in the grand mystery and some moments of gore and terror that are rather well done, yet the very mystery of what is happening and just how it happened is left a bit on the side. With Abe not getting any answer and the problem reaching its very worst outcome, there is easily a sentiment of disappointment that permeates this chapter.
While it is easy to understand the greater points of this story, with Abe understanding he doesn’t actually solve problems all that well like he did when he was in the B.P.R.D., the very conclusion to this arc feels a bit hollow. Without any resolution and a bit of a rushed conclusion to smaller parts, it’s hard to actually grasp the very morale behind everything that happened in Abe’s corner of this book.
Where it’s a little bit more satisfactory, yet not exactly for everybody, would be the part focusing on the necromancer and the enslaved agent Vaughn. With a vision of how the very landscape of hell and how people making pacts with demons might have changed due to events happening in Hellboy in Hell, this very scene presents a good balance between the supernatural, the unknown and how the world has changed. While the plot with the necromancer is still a slow moving one, there is enough here to provide grander themes to Vaughn journey. It might be rather detached to the struggles and the very road Abe is crossing right now, but it’s interesting enough to make it worth the readers time despite it all.
What also make this issue worth it for the readers is Max Fiumara’s work. While his characters can be a bit too deformed and stylish for their own good sometimes, like Vaughn, there is no doubt that there is a general sense of design that gives the book its own identity most of the time. With Vaughn being an anomaly in an otherwise very solid issue in terms of character work, Fiumara makes the like of Abe, the necromancer, ”Lucifer” and other characters be ripe with life. Their expressions, their poses and their smaller mannerism makes for a tale that is rather great as they react to the horror and to the events around them.
Where the artist simply shine, though, is with the atmosphere. With a splendid use of backgrounds to present haunting elements and plenty of really mood-setting details, Fiumara simply permeate the book with uncertainty but also with some additions that adds quite a lot to the story and overall plot. The skeletons of creatures, a red ooze, blood everywhere, an empty town and plenty of other types of sceneries can be found here, all contributing greatly to the themes and tone of the series in general.
What also really helps is the work of Dave Stewart, bringing in a complete understanding of shading as well mood-setting colors here. Collaborating very well with Fiumara, the colorist presents a great range here, yet always connect everything to an overall darkness. Playing brightness with a certain restraint, Stewart helps the ambiance very well, playing ambiance and mystery with his contrasts between scenes thanks to a focus on different tones and palette. The scenes with the necromancer and those with Abe are strikingly different, which is done quite well thanks to his contribution to the issue.
The Conclusion: Some of the themes are well-handled and the art is out of this world thanks to Stewart and Fiumara, yet there are some less-than-satisfying moments in the conclusion to this arc that may leave some readers a bit dissatisfied overall. Not a bad issue, but the series has seen better.
Hugo Robberts Larivière