Abe Sapien #16 Review

Abe Sapien #16 Review

Abe Sapien 16

Back where it all started.

Creative Staff:
Story: Mike Mignola and Scott Allie
Art: Sebastián Fiumara
Color: Dave Stewart
Letters: Clem Robins

What They Say:
Abe returns to the place where Fenix shot him, and things get worse when a mysterious gas begins to leak from the ground. Pursued by a crew sent to bring him down, he runs into two different apocalypse cults, one of which worships Abe!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Abe returns to Rosario, Texas—the place where he was shot by the psychic Fenix—to try and uncover the answers behind his recent mutation. Abe fears that his mutation might be related to the supernatural incursions that have devastated lives, destabilized governments, and may well spell the end for humankind. This fear drives him to run away from the B.P.R.D. agents dispatched to retrieve him, and his running might have put them all in an even more dangerous situation.

At first, it seemed like Abe was driven by a desire to learn more about what mutated him, but as the series has progressed, it becomes clearer and clearer that fear is the engine that powers his actions. He fears the decisions that drove him when he was a man to become a human-fish hybrid, he fears the mutation that has made him even more monsterlike and less human, he fears his possible connection to the apocalypse, and he fears the B.P.R.D. He hides from this fear and forestalls seeking answers by helping people along the way, making his role as warrior against the supernatural a crutch instead of a strength. Grace even calls him out on it, saying, “Anyone wants to help us, you want to run.”

Of course, Grace is driven by her fears just as much as Abe is by his—the difference is we don’t know what her fears are just yet. The two use each other and possess a co-dependent relationship. Grace is obviously afraid of other people and is only comfortable around Abe because he can protect her, and Abe uses that to justify his stalled search for answers. In this case, their fears enable each other’s worst instincts and it will be something that they will either succumb to or fight to overcome.

As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I’m a big fan of the character, and I love that he has his own series, but this title feels rudderless: it spins its wheels too often and doesn’t seem to advance the story or the premise underlying it. Naturally, it’s possible that when this series reaches its zenith everything will come together like a Swiss timepiece, but the issue with reading serialized fiction is that we only have it in pieces and seeing it as a whole may take years—if it happens at all. In the meantime, we can only guess and hope.

This is not to say that this is not an enjoyable series. For all my problems with its lack of focus, the comic does a great job of presenting a side of Abe that we haven’t seen before, and the worldbuilding is great. For all their popularity, most stories set during or after the apocalypse don’t take the time to truly inhabit the world they create. Sometimes this is a necessity of plot, but when they do take the time, the story becomes so much more interesting and impactful. I’ve always thought that the reason why Stephen King’s The Stand is such a powerful work is that he took the time to truly flesh out his world and make it real while at the same time using the setting to propel and support its premise. Abe Sapien does that. It twists middle and southern America to almost the point of unrecognizability, and it shows us how people try to survive in such a world. Those elements alone are worth the price of admission.

Thankfully, though, the art here is excellent. I’m not a trained artist, so I have trouble at times dissecting the art and seeing what parts belong to the penciler, what parts the inker, and what parts the colorist (the letterer often gets left out because lettering is an invisible art that strives not to call attention to itself). What I can say is that the all of these different elements come together beautifully to tell the story. The character designs are clean and compelling and the action exciting and easy to follow. And in addition to that, the atmosphere is created and supported by dark, heavy lines, the use of shadow and silhouette (the panel where Abe and Grace are first attacked by wolves is excellent and all done in silhouette with blurred lines used to capture speed and power), and a rich, consistent color palette.

In Summary:
While the worldbuilding and character work remain strong, the sense of premise and motion are still lacking in this work. However, there are indications that this is changing. The fact that Abe is his own worst enemy right now and allowing his fears to rule his actions is becoming more apparent, as is his unhealthy and unproductive relationship with Grace. He is also making definitive moves to find answers to the questions of why he was shot, what happened to him after, and what connection it has to the apocalypse. I fear that this might be a case of two steps forward, one step back, but there are enough strong elements to this story to keep me coming back next month. Recommended.

Grade: B-

Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Dark Horse
Release Date: September 10th, 2014
MSRP: $3.50

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Abe Sapien #16 Review