“Abe Sapien” #2 picks up more or less where the debut issue left off, telling the story of Hellboy’s favorite fish-man friend travelling a monster-ravaged America in search of answers about his past. If #1 was a bit light on the title character, #2 more than makes up for it with a flashback-heavy issue that may be a bit baffling for readers not up to date on Abe’s backstory.
One of the strengths of the Hellboy universe has always been its tight continuity. Mike Mignola’s clear vision for Hellboy, and the small number of other writers to work in his sandbox, have enabled him to keep his plots and characters retcon-free. The flip side of the coin, though, is that a new reader may be lost among characters and situations familiar to dedicated fans. There are references abound to recent and past continuity, such as the current “Hellboy in Hell” story arc, and they’re rarely explained. That these are interwoven with flashbacks to Abe’s origins only compounds the possible confusion for new readers.
Fortunately, there’s also the proper beginning of a plot to move things along. Abe finds himself staying with a strange but charismatic minister in a small town that was spared, but cut off from society, by the destruction wrought by the ongoing nationwide monster attacks. This brings focus to a story that was in danger of wandering aimlessly, and lets Mignola and co-writer Scott Allie dive deeper into how the constant threat of monstrous destruction has changed America. There are also no clear good guys or bad guys in the little town Abe discovers, just a group of average folk who’ve had their worlds turned upside-down by a brush with the supernatural. It’s nice to see this moral uncertainty in a universe that so often pits its heroes against wholly evil monstrosities. I certainly hope that Mignola and Allie will spend at least another issue exploring the religious politics of the town, rather than simply moving Abe on to another place before the dust settles.
Sebastian Fiumara’s art continues to be solid, with moody pencil shading appropriate for this dark tale. It suffers a bit from monthly-schedule pressures; there are numerous panels with flat, single-colored backgrounds and a few shots with slightly odd perspective. As in issue #1, Fiumara’s monster designs are the highlight of the book. It’s a shame they still only appear in single-frame flashbacks, because they continue to hold the same power and terror. One can only hope that before it’s all over, Abe will go up against a Fiumara-designed monstrosity in real time and we’ll get to see it in action.
It looks as though “Abe Sapien,” or at least its debut story arc “Dark and Terrible,” is shaping up to be mostly for hardcore Hellboy readers. Fans of Abe himself will be pleased by this issue, as it’s very Abe-centric and teases quite a bit more about his past and future. More casual fans, however, may be lost in the continuity upon which the issue mostly relies. It remains to be seen where future issues take the story, but for now, “Abe Sapien” is only worth reading for dedicated fans that want a deeper look at the impact of recent events in the Hellboy universe.