By Pete Lenz
Tim approached me recently, and asked me to write reviews for Write Club. I agreed, but then began to wonder about how our friendship would suffer after I wrote up my critique of his podcast.
Then I figured out that Tim actually wanted me to write comics or book reviews for the Write Club website. I agreed, and this time I immediately had some ideas about what I would do. Since I now knew that I’d be reviewing comics or books or some other form of media, and not an actual episode of Write Club--although in that brief period of confusion, I did in fact begin to mentally list some flawed past episodes of the Write Club podcast, but that’s for another time.
That night, after getting home, I told my wife that I had work to do. I was commissioned by the co-founder of Write Club to produce a review for content on its website. I sat down with my to-be-read pile of comic books, and began the process of selecting one that I’d read then write about. After narrowing it down to a few books, I proceeded to fall asleep on my carpet.
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Patrick Reynolds
Colors by Dave Stewart
Letters by Clem Robins
Cover art by Dave Johnson
Abe Sapien might be my favorite character in the entire Hellboy world. He’s intelligent, refined, comedic, and aside from being an Icthyo Sapien, he’s relatively normal. Abe became active in the B.P.R.D in 1981; this particular story is set in 1982 – an old tale of my favorite merman paranormal defender.
Professor Broom calls on Abe to investigate the ghostly manifestation of a boy named Adam who drowned in a lake after falling through broken ice. It’s been slow for the Bureau, so Abe jumps on the chance to get some field work in. Abe visits the deceased boy’s family, who have become shattered in the face of the young boy's death. The boy’s brother, Jacob, who survived the lake incident, has become a withdrawn and troubled child. Abe speaks with him, doesn’t quite learn anything new, and then decides to check out the scene of the drowning. He dives into the lake, and deep within makes contact with the deceased boy’s ghost. In a moment of revelation, Abe races back to the family’s house and demands to see Jacob again. Abe wastes no time and begins to threaten Jacob, claiming he knows what he did and how his brother Adam really died. Pinning Jacob against the wall, Abe grills him on what happened and within a sequence of wonderfully grotesque art, we learn that Jacob is possessed of a creature or demon – the thing that is truly responsible for Adam’s death. The boy’s mother takes a stand which damages the creature, causing it to jump into the lake and perish. We learn through Abe’s field report that the creature was a Nokken (we learn in the back matter that a Nokken or Nix is a Scandinavian water spirit. This is what I love about Mignola - he takes bits from every aspect of myth and fable and makes them work in his comics), and that a number of them may be maintaining a nest in the area. The story wraps up by showing the the family post event, and a meditation on how a haunting can sometimes be something other than paranormal; in this case both a supernatural and humanly emotional event.
The above reads like a shitty book report. If you disagree, I’m your biggest fan. What I would like to say about this book, beyond summarizing its story, is that it was a pretty decent value for a one-shot. Mignola has been able to advance the world of Hellboy in incredible ways over the last few years since he began collaborating with other writers and artists to do some of the heavy lifting. In a lot of cases I would call this ghostwriting, but in Mignola’s case, it’s the farthest from the truth. He’s involved in nearly every aspect of these additional tales, and it shows. He’s been working with like minded writers and artists to create new stories in this world. It’s a delightful thing to have been getting so many Hellboy and B.P.R.D tales over the last few years, especially since they're remaining true to the creator's vision. It’s not clear in this case if Mignola offered a story fragment, and John Arcudi wrote the script, but it’s irrelevant. Arcudi has played in this sandbox before, and the results have been wonderful thus far. Patrick Reynolds’ art fits perfectly. His style, while unlike Mignola’s, maintains many of the qualities you'd expect from the Hellboy brand, but still has its own look. Again – like minded, but offering its own merits in style and substance.
This book is part of Dark Horse’s “One-Shot Wonders” line-up scheduled for the next few weeks and ending out the year. In addition to Hellboy's Abe Sapien, they’re promoting one shots for Star Wars, Buffy, The Goon, and Conan to name a few. I read a few Dark Horse books monthly, but may dip a bit more to see what the rest of these One-Shots will offer. It’s always nice to have a standalone story set apart from continuity, and this one-shot story was just that: a one-shot story. One not mired in back story (although, as always, it’s there for the careful reader) but capable of entertaining the reader with a satisfying and quick tale. I recommend it.