“Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plan” #1 is a gorgeous comic. The artistic team of Peter Snejbjerg and Dave Stewart grabbed my attention with stunning pages like the two preview pages. The writing here is fairly simple and elegant in its minimalism, allowing the art to steal the show.
Taking place in 1984, “The Abyssal Plan” focuses on Abe Sapien going on a recovery mission of Melchiorre’s Burgonet, a medieval combat helmet that apparently has the ability to heal wounds of the wearer. The Burgonet was possibly lost at sea in the 1940s when the Russians were transporting it, and Abe is needed to recover it from the wreck. It’s a fairly simple story that comes alive in the slow, moody execution. Abe plays the straight man to the personalities around him and has thoughtful reflections during his recovery of the Burgonet.
Snejbjerg’s art matches the simplicity of the writing for the most part by sticking to clear, concise pencils. There are no unnecessary lines or overly rendered characters with the level of detail increasing underwater as he packs in a lot of detail when drawing the sunken submarine. He also uses a strong contrast in lighting because of the darkness that gives the art more complexity and detail. For those scenes, Stewart uses a pretty uniform blue that places the emphasis on Snejbjerg’s line work.
Above the water, Stewart uses a lot of drab blues and grays to work with the dreary Norwegian Sea setting, making the more vibrant blue of the underwater scenes stand out more and, especially, making the brief flashes of the story of Melchiorre just leap off the page with bright red backgrounds. Stewart doesn’t use a wide range of colors, but he does so to maximum effect, making sure that Snejbjerg’s art is more noticeable and clear as a result.
Mignola and Arcudi craft a story that’s more about mood and character interaction than plot. The Burgonet is something of a MacGuffin; It exists to give Abe an excuse to go down to the bottom of the Norwegian Sea and provide haunting, creepy narration as he searches the submarine for his goal. The dialogue between the salvage ship’s captain and the Bureau’s local agent is amusing and gives the issue some flavor, making Abe stand out in his stoicism and thoughtfulness.
You’re not likely to find a better looking comic this week than “Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plan” #1 and the art alone makes it worthwhile.