A Blast to the Past in “Abe Sapien #23” REVIEW
Writer: Scott Allie
Artist: Kevin Nowlan
Yesterday, we brought you Scott Allie’s opinions on the current state of the Mignolaverse. Here is today’s anticlimactic follow-up: many opinions of my own! As Scott mentioned yesterday, in this month’s Abe Sapien from Dark Horse Comics we take a break from the somewhat dire straights of the Mignolaverse to celebrate a special occasion with the return of incredible illustrator Kevin Nowlan!
Abe Sapien #23 is a one shot detailing an older adventure of Abe and Hellboy, and follows them to British Columbia more than twenty years ago as they investigate a lake monster. Unfortunately, what could be an innocuous trip — relatively speaking, of course — quickly escalates with a gruesome disemboweling, a mysterious idol, and a small-town conspiracy.
If I were up to speed on the affairs of Abe Sapien (no spoilers, but right now he’s having a tough time of it, even in a world where “easy times” are “monsters that are mean but maybe don’t murder you”) this issue would undoubtedly be a welcome change of pace. Though “rending of insides from bodies” is not really a Scooby Doo staple, this issue is rife with banter between Hellboy and Abe that feels more “Thirteen Ghosts” spooky than “existential, Lovecraftian horrorscape.” Granted, in the world of Mike Mignola, the “Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby Doo” end of the scale still includes an awful lot attempted murder and long-forgotten old gods — but in a fun way.
Nowlan’s distinctive art is an excellent complement to Allie’s storytelling style; the visuals and colors are gorgeous, encapsulating the horror noir vibe central to this world. If you’re just looking to dip your toes into the world of Mike Mignola, this is a perfect introduction to Abe and Hellboy’s partnership, and the nature of their work and daily lives. Consider it a gentle starter story, and since I’ve enjoyed it more each time I’ve read it, it’ll be a great tale to turn back to for a breather as Abe’s primary storyline gets increasingly grim.
Longtime fans of Allie’s Abe run will enjoy this change of pace before Abe Sapien returns to its exploration of Abe’s origins and role in the on-going apocalypse next month. If horror is not your jam, I don’t know that this book will change your mind, but folks who know the movies but are unfamiliar with the overall Mignolaverse will find this a perfect way to dip their toes in the waters of the larger published universe. One word of advice though: if you immediately run out to snatch up Hellboy and B.P.R.D. trades, do not blame me. Blame Scott Allie.
TL;DR: If you already like Abe Sapien, you will continue to like it — buy this! If you like Hellboy but aren’t reading Abe Sapien, you will definitely also like it — also buy this! And if “Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby-Doo” was your favorite Scooby franchise as a small child, but also you are okay with gory lake monster death, you should buy this as well.