Advance Review: Elena Abbott Makes A Phenomenal Entrance in Abbott #1

by Rachel Bellwoar

Before the critical acclaim, and despite his name recognition, Black Bolt’s readiness for a solo title was initially questioned before Black Bolt #1 came out. With his new series, Abbott (and his second time writing for comics), Saladin Ahmed gets to introduce a wholly original character to the world in news reporter, Elena Abbott. Unlike Black Bolt, there’s never any doubt. Elena’s phenomenal!

That’s really the best word to describe this issue — phenomenal, from the first page, where artist, Sami Kivelä, makes it clear Abbott‘s co-lead is the city of Detroit, to Elena’s star-making entrance on page two. You can practically hear the music cue when letterer, Jim Campbell, blazes her name onto the page. This isn’t just a dramatic pause, but the effect Abbott has when she enters a room (and by orienting her name to the left, but having the speech bubble continue off it to the right, Campbell makes his point while keeping the conversation moving). The story she’s looking into is the slaughter of a horse, and while the police have no suspects, you can already see the papers preparing to pin the crime on a black ‘militant.’

Jason Wordie’s colors confirm Abbott’s singularity. Where the other journalists have this murkiness to their coloring, a hint at their journalistic ‘integrity,’ Abbott enters the barn in warm colors. This remains true when she’s in the same panel as them. Unable to get away with the same degree of racist candor in her presence, she’s the quintessence of professionalism.

From the neck scarf she wears, to the camera she totes, everything Abbott carries tells something about her character. The camera, for instance, means the others are aware she doesn’t have her paper’s full support (they all brought separate photographers), but Abbott makes no attempt to hide this fact from them. She’s transparent, and that goes for being a regular face in the city she serves. When Abbott tells her editor she likes to keep routines, it’s down to the art level, with two different trips out to eat ending with similar, profile shots.

Let’s go back to that first page for a second, though, because it really warrants discussion ad nauseam. Abbott #1‘s first page is a showstopper. Everything Kivelä is able to purport, and in the most fantastic fashions… you could spend hours staring down this page’s wisdom. You’re got the traffic on the left feeding into Detroit’s industry on the right. They intersect, but there’s also this underlining idea of a car crash, especially since Wordie colors these sections red. Below the crash is a business being shut down, and laid out in the back are the day’s headlines, all threatening to come to a head. It may be 1972 but a paper, fresh off the presses, at the bottom of the page, puts an alarming currency to everything that’s going on.

Campbell’s narration bubbles for Abbott’s front page story have ripped edges, from being passed around (this is a comic that appreciates the time and revision that goes into writing), and a wedge in the printing press panel shows Abbott loyalty’s is with her community’s underserved, whatever heat may come her way for using her voice.

Without knowing the big picture, the issue’s supernatural elements feel like something the series could do without, not because they’re unimportant but because Abbott doesn’t depend on them to be amazing. They’re bonuses, in shades of impressionistic magenta, and maybe my question would more be why Ahmed wanted to make Abbott a genre story, on top of being a newsroom drama. Then there’s the name Elena uses for— and the heavy cigarette use and— I’m going to cut myself off now, but trust where this comic is going and be sure to pick up a copy of issue one when it comes out this Wednesday.

 

Abbott #1 goes on sale January 24th from Boom! Studios.