Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest pt. 1 - Review and Spoilers

I'll give this review more of a preamble than this story gets. If you are familiar with Abe Sapien, BPRD, or anything else Hellboy- related, you should enjoy this issue. And the more immersed in it you are, the more you'll like it. However, if you go into this not even knowing why Abe's got gills, you might be a little at sea. There is no recap, no introduction. Thankfully, all the details the story requires are- courtesy of John Arcudi and, as expected, Mike Mignola- woven skillfully enough throughout that even new readers can extrapolate what they need to know without the benefit of a recap page.

Rather, upon opening the book, we see the end- and what we might well believe is the end of our favorite semiaquatic supernatural sleuth if it didn't say "1 of 2" conveniently on the cover. The remainder tells in flashback how our hero got into this perilous predicament and introduces us to the Van Laers, a family with a very- shall we say- fishy history. My only quibble (and it isn't really a complaint) is that- at twenty two pages, most of which have no more than two sentences of dialogue or narration- the book is pretty light reading by my standards. Then again, I tend to prefer comic book writing that's more substantial and literary (you could say wordier) than just the plot and layout. I like it best when the comics I read invite me to linger over the words on the paper as well as the pencils, inks, and colors.

That being said, though I finished this book in probably a third of the time it takes me to read other favorite comics with similar page counts, the pencils, inks, and colors kept me engaged for two  reareadings- at the very least. The pencils and inks by James Harren run the gamut from pretty loose to excruciatingly detailed, but always when appropriate. The fight scenes which made up most of the book rose to the occasion. The colors by Dave Stewart  convey the mood of each panel perfectly, sometimes taking on an almost painterly look that I found distinctive and refreshing. I absolutely love how the cover by Dave Johnson evokes the best of old movie posters. But the main reason I will be reading the next issue is the first page, both the book's beginning and its cliffhanger ending. I have to see how Abe gets out of this!

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