If only more comics were like “Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest.” This two issue horror dalliance is a brilliant short punch of chills, thrills, and some spectacularly gooey spills. The writing is tight, the art is expressive and perfectly matched to the tone and genre, and the result is a book any level of reader can enjoy. I’m not a massive “Hellboy” reader — I certainly haven’t read much “B.P.R.D.” — and yet I slipped straight into this story and loved every bit.
In an age where comics stretch everything to emulate either novel series or television seasons, this story is all about being a short story. For all those readers who grew up on the works of Lovecraft or Matheson or King, this one goes out to you. The first issue set Abe Sapien up into a very dark corner and this issue explores that corner in ghastly detail. There’s a stack of back story dropped in, though not laboriously pored over, and the result is a narrative that sticks to the dynamic elements. It’s not trying to world build for a $200 million dollar franchise movie. This is a pure thrill ride that will keep you glued until the final page comes all too soon.
It is refreshing to see a horror comic go to such lengths to unnerve the audience. There are gigantic demons afoot, mystical monsters with more unnamable parts than not, and yet the greatest tension comes from a woman, her injured arm, and the look on her face. It starts off a creepy sequence and by the time we’re done her problems have progressed to downright insanely grotesque. For all the decapitations and smashed stairwells, this isn’t a video nasty type slasher horror. The horror borders on ludicrous and yet retains all intensity and malicious intent. This is the sort of balancing act Sam Raimi was able to pull off early in his career.
James Harren’s art echoes the old EC horror masters while still managing to also be current. He’s not aping; he’s just learned the lessons and now applies them. The motion of the action is superb on every page and it is ably matched by the character moments in between. Dave Stewart’s colors bring a vibrant glory to the gore and yet don’t overplay any moments. He knows how to temper down a page to slow the reader’s eye and then ramp things up toward a more hectic scenario. This comic looks exactly like all good horror comics should.
The art of the short story is often forgotten and this two issue delight reminds why many of us have such cherished tiny tales from our formative reading years. There is no expectation to know anything else about the Mike Mignola created universe in order to completely appreciate this tale. If you like supernatural horror that will actually generate a response in your system then this book was made for you. There’s no flat space, no wasted panels. There is only the tale and the thrills it will deliver.