Written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie
Art by Sebastian Fiumara
32 pages each, color
Published by Dark Horse
Back in the day, Mike Mignola’s signature creation Hellboy begat a spin-off series, B.P.R.D., which started as a series of mini-series but eventually became an ongoing title. With over 100 B.P.R.D. comics now published and the book still going strong, it’s a healthy title with no signs of faltering. And now, added to the mix is a a spin-off from B.P.R.D., an ongoing Abe Sapien comic. (Yes, Sapien was created in Hellboy, but that’s not where his story has been for quite some time.) But in reading the first three issues of the series, I must admit that one question is jumping out at me more than others, and it’s not one that I think the creators would want. Namely… why?
Back in the pages of B.P.R.D. (which these days is titled B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth), Abe Sapien was shot and put into a coma. Now he’s awake once more, and on the run from the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. But with the world crawling with monsters that transform and/or destroy humanity with their presence, it’s hardly safe for a humanoid amphibian that looks suspiciously like a form of the frog creatures that have already done far too much damage. The end result is a series where the main character is on the run from both those who want to save him and those who want to kill him.
At this point, the world of these titles is hardly one that you can jump into easily. It’s got a huge internal mythology, all sorts of doom and destruction, to say nothing of literally hundreds of comics that all feed into one another. So with that in mind, is there really a market for a separate Abe Sapien comic that isn’t already reading B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth? I’m not convinced. That’s not to say that Mignola and Scott Allie’s story isn’t entertaining. It’s a take on that old story format where the protagonist is on a hero’s journey even as the world views him as a monster. But three issues in, it’s hard to not see the pattern forming: Abe shows up, awful things happen, both sides try to grab Abe, and then Abe escapes. (Usually amidst destruction and/or carnage.) It’s not bad but there’s nothing new or special that we weren’t already getting in the parent title. Considering that B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth isn’t afraid to have each storyline focus on a different character (and even run an additional mini-series simultaneously, like B.P.R.D. Vampire), I’m not entirely sure what warrants this character as being so special that he needs his own title above all the other characters.
The one thing that is special about Abe Sapien, though, is artist Sebastian Fiumara. Wow, is this a beautiful comic. The monsters here have a soft edge to them that might sound like it would make them less dangerous, but in fact the opposite is true. These are truly terrifying creatures, even as Fiumara draws them in a delicate, careful manner. That same touch also applies to the human characters here, too. When Henry is being hung, the struggle on his face is heartbreaking even as it’s deadly. A simple boardroom meeting at the B.P.R.D. is drawn with people that I can’t stop staring at, because they’re drawn in such a compelling manner. And when monsters start to rampage down the streets and then encounter the normal people? Well, look out. The contrast between the two is both beautiful and nasty, all wrapped up in a single package. And you know what? That’s how it should look. I’ve got no complaints whatsoever about Fiumara’s art, here, except perhaps wishing that we could clone him so he could draw twice as many comics at once.
Abe Sapien #1-3 is ultimately a title that isn’t bad, but also doesn’t seem to have much of a purpose. Perhaps that will change with time, and we’ll get a better understanding of why Abe needed his own title instead of showing up in his own stories within B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth. For now, though, this isn’t a new series that someone could jump into blindly and completely follow. I say that this is for completists only, but that’s not an insult; it’s really just a sister title to another, and in the end I feel you’ll need to read either both or neither.