Hail The Return of Abe (Vague Spoilers)
Past: I usually like to start my reviews by acknowledging what has happened previously in the book and letting readers know if a particular issue would be a good place from which to start reading a series. This seems especially pertinent with Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible because of it's numbering (issue 1) and the character's unique place in creator Mike Mignola's expansive Hellboy Universe. For those who have not been paying close attention to the complete tapestry of Mignola's work there can be quiet a learning curve going into his stories. Dark times have come to the world the B.P.R.D. has been tasked to protect. After a catastrophic war with longtime series antagonists, the frog people, giant beasts called the Ogdru Hem, now roam the earth creating havoc and spreading death across the globe. Many of the shows established super powered characters have been killed, are missing, or are out of action. This includes Abe Sapien who has just woken from a longterm coma and has fled the B.P.R.D's compound in a seemingly devolved state. This has left more traditional agents to face a global catastrophe that they are in no way prepared to fight.
Issue Overview: Opening with a group of angry modern satanists in rural America the book drops the reader into a version of the U.S.A. devastated by supernatural monsters large and gigantic. This focus on the state of a country on the brink of the apocalypse drives most of the issue. While we do check in with the B.P.R.D headquarters and catch up with agents working in the field the emphasis is still on the "state of things". It is not until two thirds of the way through the issue that we see Abe our resurrected hero who may not be the fish man he once was and his escape across country on a train. This is all rendered in a washed gritty realistic style by artist Sebastian Fiumara who is not among Mignola's cabal of regular artists.
The Good: Sticking with the art; Fiumara nails the look and feel of a world gone mad. He should be commended for so perfectly rendering spot on renditions of characters we have seen drawn by other artists. This includes both people and raging monsters. He also gives us some of our first depictions of a devolved Abe Sapien in action. In general I am just happy to see another "realistic" illustrator working at on a Mignola storyline. While I enjoy the sloppy minimal style of Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon (The artists on B.P.R.D. Vampire) sometimes a scary comic benefits from a more lifelike depiction of the horror. Plot-wise it was good to catch up with characters from previous story arcs under the B.P.R.D. banner.
The Bad: As I said in the issue overview, most of what we get is overview setting the plots within a larger context for new readers and establishing who is doing what. This means it feels like not much has actually happened in the issue itself particularly when the book takes so long to even present it's title character. Beyond this we still do not know much about our hero, including his plans or even his mental state.
Verdict: Despite my feelings that the issue didn't "do much" for longtime readers Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible is a worthy read and a triumphant return for the character. As you may have figured out I am already a fan of Mignola's work and you may feel that clouds my judgment but I would counter that with the solid work Mignola and Dark Horse Comics put out, it would be hard not to be a fan.