Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Peter Snejbjerg
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

One of the things I’ve grown to like about Mike Mignola’s Hellboy family of comics is that every now and then, a strange little story pops up in place of a longer mini-series or huge saga. That’s the case with Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain, which is over and done in just two issues. When it’s all said and done, I have to give Mignola and John Arcudi credit: it’s not only just the right length, but it manages to feel both light and serious at the same time.

Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain is the sort of story that you could see someone trying to cram into an anthology, compressing everything down to just 15 or so pages. In a strict plotting sense, I think that’d be possible, but in doing so it would lose out on half of the strength of this story. Part of of what attracted me to this story, where Abe Sapien tries to recover a relic from a downed World War II submarine, is the attention that Arcudi and Mignola paid to dead guard Iosif. Through flashbacks to the 1940s, we get to see why Iosif ended up on the submarine, guarding a supernatural helmet. His name might not be on the cover, but it’s really all about Iosif. From his befuddled encounter with the creepy young Varvara, to his writing a letter to his wife as he waits to die, he’s a charmer from start to finish. Even with the book opening with Iosif’s death, it’s hard to not find yourself hoping that somehow, against all odds, he’ll escape his fate.

As for Abe Sapien himself, Arcudi and Mignola give him a nice relaxed attitude throughout the book. In many ways, he’s just there to guide us through Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain, serving as an impromptu narrator as well as voice of reason. He’s got very little to do with the basic plot of the comic itself, but this backseat role plays out more strongly than you might otherwise expect.

The big attraction for me, though, was seeing that Peter Snejbjerg was drawing the book. Snejbjerg’s art took a huge leap forward last year with The Mighty, and Snejbjerg continues that here. His lines are crisp and clean, and his characters are drawn in an uncluttered, attractive manner. I love that Snejbjerg is able to make characters beautiful without looking like models; there’s something incredibly wholesome about his figures. Snejbjerg is still able to draw a gross looking zombie, though, with the same care he applied to Iosif’s tank top going equally towards intestines and kidneys.

Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain is a fun little diversion, and a reminder that a horror comic doesn’t also have to be disgusting or full of splatter. In some ways, it’s actually a little sweet. You may come on board for the promise of some beautiful Snejbjerg art, but the entire comic is entertaining in its own right.

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