"Whatever’s going on here, Abe, you can't handle it," mutters the aquatic hero to himself. "You're not ready."
The year is 1981. Greece joins the European Community, which later becomes the European Union. John Hinckley Jr. shoots U.S. President Ronald Reagan outside a Washington D.C. hotel. Lady Diana Spencer marries Charles, Prince of Wales. The seminal MTV is launched.
And on the island of Saint-Sebastien, off the coast of France, Abe Sapien's first solo mission is gong to hell.
Abe Sapien: The Drowning #2 recaps enough of the previous issue to let new readers figure out how so much could go so wrong all at once. Last we left off, Abe Sapien, Hellboy's favorite fish-man friend, is sent to find a mystic dagger at the bottom of the sea. The sleepy life of Saint-Sebastien lulls Abe and his BPRD back-up into a false sense of security, culminating to one hell of a set up.
As in issue #1, the team of Mignola and Alexander is perfect for the story. Mignola's characteristic moody horror with a dash of comedy is complemented by Jason Shawn Alexander's shadowy realism. For example, the mysterious witch who controls the beasts of the deep is rendered in high contrast, letting the light define her dark features. Yet Alexander allows her humanity to shine through her distinctly blue eyes as she sorrowfully supplicates to God.
As a child, I spent many summers on the Mediterranean island of Sicily, so the streets of Saint Sebastien feel like a strange homecoming. The narrow walkways lined with endlessly adjoining homes and red-shingled roofs were authentic. Thus, all the more frightening given the horrific drama that plays out.
What is truly frightening about this comic book is its subtlety. There are many quiet panels where the action lies in the nuance of the previous panel, such as movement of shadows or the delivery of a line of dialogue.
Also, the mellow dialogue is realistic and natural, even in its most dramatic moments. For instance, the team discusses a good deal of exposition at the opening, simply rolling off fact after fact. Yet all of it is interesting and provocative. Mignola chooses his subject matter and words so carefully that even when he's laying the pipe for the rest of the series, he's engaging.
Pick up Abe Sapien: The Drowning #2 and you'll be able to follow along, though you should buy issue #1 as well. It's that good.
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