Story by: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by: James Harren
Colors by: Dave Stewart
Letters by: Clem Robins
Cover Art by: Dave Johnson
|Doug Jones as Abe Sapien|
There’s a lot to praise when it comes to the miniseries “Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest.” The artwork is fantastic, the writing brings the characters to life, the pacing of the entire story doesn’t rush you through or bog you down, and the list could go on. But there are two things about this particular arc that should suck you right in if you’ve ever wanted to check out a Dark Horse title.
First, and I think most impressive, is that if the only thing you know about the universe of Hellboy is from the movies, then you are already well-equipped to dive right into the story. This isn’t some alternate continuity (more of an off-shoot of it) and there’s no need to go hunting down rogue issues of B.P.R.D. to know what’s going on. Secondly, this arc is only two issues long. It’s just a really good horror story being told really well.
The first page shows Abe being chewed on by creatures that look like maggots the size of bulldogs. It cuts back to B.P.R.D headquarters in 1985 where Abe is visited by, Peter, the grandson of Garver Van Laer, an author on demonology. Garver mysteriously disappeared in the 1930’s but Peter claims to have a lead on his whereabouts and thought Abe would like to take the case. The case leades to Peter’s eccentric Uncle Turner who lives in the Maine lake house that Garver last lived in. It’s non-stop action and great pacing up until the final pages where Abe discovers the corpse of a gigantic demon in the basement before getting knocked out cold by a grotesque creature wearing a dress.
Word of trouble at the lake house reaches B.P.R.D. headquarters and Hellboy accompanies Sal Tasso at the request of Professor Bruttenholm. The story then cuts back to the lake house where we find out the meaning of the opening page of issue #1. Abe is coaxed into waking up by the ghost of Garver who fills in the holes of the lake house mystery. Here we find out the origin of the demon corpse, the identity of the creature wearing a dress, and why Garver was never seen from anyone ever again. The dress-clad creature had destroyed all the vehicles outside leaving Abe and the sheriff trapped. The showdown between Abe and the creature is action-packed and ends gruesomely just as help arrives.
If there’s one thing that this miniseries accomplishes that the movie does not is showing the physical abilities of Abe. Sure, he’s a smart guy and kind of the bookworm of the B.P.R.D. but he’s also fully capable of kicking some serious ass. He can take and throw punches, so much so that Hellboy was never even worried about him. In Hellboy 2, he locks himself in a safe when a swarm of pixies is released. If there were any doubts that Abe Sapien could hold his own in a paranormal throwdown, “The Devil Does Not Jest” puts them to rest.
The story doesn’t rely to heavily on just the writing or just the art. The reader’s eyes move exactly where Mignola, Arcudi, and Harren want them to move. The result is a story that could have been an entertaining short horror film but works so much better as a comic. There are moments in which the pacing might feel like it’s dragging but I then realized it was like some of the best scenes in The Thing. You feel yourself slowly moving through the lake house with Abe, rushing only when the action calls for it. And when the action does finally come it whips by without you missing a single detail in the art.
The art, by the way, is fantastic. It’s simultaneously grotesque and clean, but the unsung hero is Dave Stewart who did the colors for this miniseries. Colors seem to pop without looking like someone got carried away with the contrast on Photoshop. Just enough color is drained from flashbacks to let you know when flashbacks start and end.
Of the few criticisms, the opening page of the first issue seems out of place. While I get that it was a flashback scene, it isn’t until you get to the second issue that you discover when that full-page shot is taking place in the storyline. It was a pretty grave mistake to make right off the bat with the first page of an otherwise great story. Other than that, the non-linear narrative really worked for the rest of the series.
Some might argue that the scene with Hellboy and Sal was totally unnecessary, but I think it fit nicely. The bulk of the story plays out like a mystery with a Lovecraft kind of twist to it. There needed to be just a little lighthearted humor to release the tension building up in the lake house and I think it would have felt too forced had it come from anyone else than Hellboy. Also, the exchange between Hellboy and (a blood and guts covered) Abe in the last page was not only humorous but showed the type of relationship the two characters share.
Overall, there’s little in this miniseries I would change. Maybe being only two issues long is what was needed to keep the stories tight and the possibilities of plot holes small. If you’re a fan of horror and suspense in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft like I am, then you’ll thoroughly enjoy this miniseries. But if you’re not, it’s also a well executed story that let’s both the art and writing tell the story without dragging the other one behind. The trend in comic books now seems to be large stories with huge crossovers and/or events that demand huge media coverage. In a time like this, it’s refreshing to see a well made 2-issue miniseries and that’s exactly what “Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest” is.
Article by Lance C. of Comic Book Cast