Available now from Boom! Studios, the titular Abbott returns in a new volume of supernatural crime-fighting. Writer Saladin Ahmed returns with illustrator Sami Kivela for Abbott: 1973 #1. Mattia Iacono provides colors, while Jim Campbell provides lettering.
In the previous volume, which was set in 1972, Elena Abbott discovered she was endowed with the powers of the Lightbringer. These powers make her a “chosen one’ if you will—the only one able to fight the forces of darkness called “the Umbra.” While working as a journalist for the Detroit Daily, she fought these forces and one Professor Bellcamp, who allied himself with the Umbra.
Believing she defeated the city’s evil, Abbott now works for a prominent Black newspaper, the Detroit Chronicle. She also lives in a house with her girlfriend, Amelia, and their dog, Princess. Elena Abbott clearly wants nothing more than to live a normal life, but the Umbra are determined to eliminate her.
Supernatural crime media are a dime a dozen these days. Once in a blue moon, something like Angel or Hellboy comes along to revive the genre with memorable characters and grounded storylines. Unfortunately, Abbott: 1973 falls into the forgettable category of supernatural crime.
Ahmed’s writing choices strongly contribute to the book’s forgettability. For example, inconsistent captioned excerpts from Elena’s articles, along with stilted dialogue, falls short of what is represented artistically. If there were more captions and more than just facts, they might have had a deeper emotional or story impact.
From my point of view, captions function similarly to voice over in movies. Voice over in movies contrast with the imagery and may provide character insight. However, as it stands, the captions get lost in the sauce, if you will, without augmenting the tone of the book or revealing character.
Artistically, on the other hand, Kivela’s jagged, expressive line work alongside Iacono’s deep oranges, blues, and purples fill in the neo-noir flavor where Ahmed’s writing cannot. Abbott feels very much like an homage to the Silver Age of Comics while remaining quite contemporary. Furthermore, Campbell’s understated lettering and use of typewriter font help approximate the seventies.
Ultimately, this issue doesn’t make Detroit an enticing world, nor is Elena Abbott an enticing protagonist. She’s simply a Black, bisexual version of the same Chosen One hero trope we’ve seen in properties like Buffy and Superman. Besides, we see her doing mundane things and mostly reacting to events with few words or actions in this issue. With that said, I must acknowledge that representation does matter. Despite what I see as the story’s shortcomings, we need more characters like Elena Abbott.
Nonetheless, what is remotely interesting about Abbott: 1973 #1 is the Umbra’s plot to undermine the election of Detroit’s first Black mayor. It remains to be seen whether such a plot will be enough to keep readers’ attention for another four issues.