One of the greatest characters (in our humble opinion) to come out of HELLBOY comics is Abe Sapien. Named for former President Abraham Lincoln, Abe Sapien was found in a water tank with a note stating the date of the former President's assassination (April 14th, 1865) and not much else as far as clues revealing his identity and origin were concerned. Abe is interesting. He's intelligent, unique and a very mysterious half-man, half-amphibian creature that -- after being discovered -- eventually went on to work for the B.P.R.D. as one of the organization's most respected detectives. Yet, who is Abe really? What is his origin? Where did he come from and what do we really know about his past?
One of the interesting things about this particular character is the fact that not even Abe has the answers to the questions posed above. Since being discovered, there is a mystery that has surrounded this particular character. He is mysterious because his past is unknown both to him as well as to the reader, and this is part of the reason that makes his particular story so interesting.
Unlike most comic book series, HELLBOY books are split into two or three issue story arcs that feel really self-contained and accessible to new readers, while still maintaining a certain level of complexity. On the surface they seem simple when in fact they are built up over the course of several years and backstory. Such is the case with the newest ongoing series at Dark Horse from HELLBOY creator Mike Mignola, ABE SAPIEN: DARK AND TERRIBLE. In this new ongoing series Abe's identity is thrust into the forefront of the story, being the focus of the plot as well as the character's ambitions. During this story Abe realizes there are things he does not understand about himself, and after being prompted by his allies, he embarks on a sort of journey of self discovery. The current series brings Abe full circle, calling back to his very first solo adventure which was first published in 2008 in ABE SAPIEN: THE DROWNING.
THE DROWNING is a perfect portrayal of a timid, young and slightly nervous Abe who is a bit uncomfortable in his own skin. The character is a bit naive, and he sometimes compares his own experiences and his own actions to those of Hellboy begging the question, 'what would Hellboy do in this situation?' or 'Hellboy wouldn't make this mistake.' The result is a great portrayal of the character in a different place in his own career, unsure of himself and his own abilities, constantly questioning whether or not he is doing the right thing and it is moments like these that give us insight into the fact that he doesn't actually know who he himself is. The story gives us a look not only at Abe's first adventure on his own, but it also gives us some perspective into the type of character Abe used to be. The way Mignola writes the character in the 2008 THE DROWNING is very different from the motivated, controlled, self-assured character we see in the current ABE SAPIEN: DARK AND TERRIBLE.
One of the things that makes him stand out to other B.P.R.D. characters is his intellect. Abe has a way of speaking that is very different from other characters, and one of the qualities that makes him stand out is his level of compassion. He cannot pass a man who has suffered without wishing him some sort of peace -- hoping that his death was not a painful one. An example of this can be seen in ABE SAPIEN: ABYSSAL PLAIN. In this scene Abe demonstrates compassion for a complete stranger, keeping the dead man in his thoughts even while on a mission. It's interesting to see the stark differences between him and Hellboy, especially, and this moment really highlights that.
The current series is one that is bringing the character full circle and allowing him to dive into a journey of self exploration in search of the answers to questions pertaining to his identity: who he is, where he has come from, and what his purpose is are all questions being explored in his current series. And while we don't know much about the details of his life, we do know that Abe Sapien is an incredibly likable character and it has been interesting to watch him undergo changes since we were initially introduced to him in HELLBOY: SEED OF DESTRUCTION #2. If you haven't been reading the current ABE SAPIEN: DARK AND TERRIBLE series, and you are unfamiliar with the character, you may want to dive right in. What do you think of Abe Sapien? Are you a fan of the character? Have you ever read any of his own off-shoot stories?