Saladin Ahmed made quite a splash last year with his debut comic work on Marvel’s Black Bolt solo (preceded by his impressive run around the prose award circuits for his 2012 Islam inspired sci-fi novel Thorne of the Crescent Moon.) I was excited when Abbott was announced as I really enjoyed Black Bolt and could see the potential in Ahmed lending his hand to a creator owned series. Abbott follows the titular Elena Abbott, a tough-as-nails journalist who is investigating a series of strange murders for which the police have no leads. There may be more to it than that though, as Abbott falls down a rabbit hole of occult intrigue and race relations in early ’70s Detroit.
Most of this first issue is setup, which for a story that appears to be very complex is not totally unforgivable. Abbott has recently written a very controversial story for her paper about a police officer who beat a young black boy to death. Even though the story is set in the ’70s, it’s rather clear that Ahmed wants us to connect this to current events. The tension between Abbott and the white characters in the comic is time period appropriate, and Ahmed takes care to make sure the blatantly racist characters are clearly in the wrong without resorting to the use of any slurs.
The occult aspect of the premise doesn’t make many appearances in the first issue which was a little disappointing as it was the most interesting aspect of the issue for me. Abbott was once in love with a man from Africa, who was somehow connected to evil spirits/demons of some kind and was taken from her by them. She never quite got over him, and it has affected her relationships since. Not much is explained, but again, as a first issue that is mostly setting up the rest of the story, I’m not too terribly worried about it as long as the next issue clarifies some things.
Sami Kivela’s art does a great job of establishing the setting and mood. It’s very reminiscent of ’70s pulp films in its use of perspective. There are several pages that really impressed me with their implementation of sequencing and space. One splash page in particular, where Abbott’s signature ascot was used as panel borders, really jumps out. It bugged me that Abbott doesn’t have much range in her facial expressions (she seems to be making a variation of the same basic face in every close up panel), but it’s a small price to pay for art that fits this story so well. On top of that, some of the lettering, for instance when Abbott is typing on her typewriter, is really clever.
Abbott #1 is intriguing and does a great job of establishing a overall feel for the comic. If you enjoy a good pulp piece, albeit with some crazy occult twists, this is the comic for you.