- Posted by Johanna on April 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: stories by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi; art by Patric Reynolds, Peter Snejbjerg, and James Harren
- PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Books; $17.99 US
I’ve had a soft spot for the title character, a gill-bearing amphibious former human, since hearing him voiced by David Hyde-Pierce in the first Hellboy movie. Doug Jones’ movements were as beautiful to watch, too, as the voice was to listen to. However, I’ve been harsh on the Hellboy franchise lately, since it’s now being driven by more continuity than I want. That doesn’t make them bad comics — fans of the series who are following it all seem to be enjoying it — just not what I’m looking for.
So it was almost with resignation that I flipped through this newest collection, Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest. I thought I’d find more of the same and could put the book down quickly. However, I was surprised to find stand-alone horror stories that appealed to me the way the original Hellboy did. They’re simple in structure — Abe goes to weird location, monster attacks, order is restored if only temporarily — but that’s the appeal of the Hellboy (or any supernatural adventure story) formula.
Three stories in five issues are reprinted here: Abe Sapien: The Haunted Boy, Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain #1-2, and Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest #1-2. All are set in the 80s and feature bodies of water prominently, as suits the character.
The first is particularly powerful, as a grieving mother has to cope with the loss of her ten-year-old son to a frozen lake. The boy’s friend survived their ice skating accident, but he hasn’t been quite the same since. At first, this seems like a classic ghost story, as manifestations are reported seen at the lake, but since this universe is what it is, the waters are inhabited by something particularly dark, evil, and old. The watery setting also provides some great images of Abe swimming through the murk. Patric Reynolds does a good job capturing the horror contrasted against the domestic home environment the characters inhabit.
His work is scratchier than Peter Snejbjerg’s clean line, which tells the next story. I like it, because it gives Abe a sleek look. This tale is about a doomed Russian submarine that was carrying a mystical, healing relic when it sunk in the 1940s. A simple salvage mission gets complicated with a greedy ship captain, the Russian military, and of course, the supernatural. I enjoyed the humor with the skipper, but I found the conclusion a bit unsatisfying. I think it’s trying to make a point about the time of its setting that I didn’t agree with. The choice didn’t seem in keeping with what I think of Abe’s personality, either.
The last story sends Abe off with a young man to investigate his long-lost uncle’s haunted mansion on a lake in Maine. Since the relative’s dad was a demonologist, you know that isn’t going to go well. This one’s a lot more physical and visceral, with various fight scenes, but it also provides more guest appearances by other BPRD members. It seemed a bit shallow to me compared to the characterization of the first tale, but I’m not into this series for the monsters.
The book also has a sketchbook section with cover and character design drafts and background notes. The publisher has posted a preview and provided a digital review copy.