Too much exposition and not enough story.
What They Say:
On the run from the B.P.R.D., a mutated Abe Sapien traverses a devastated America, with monster corpses scattered around and cities in ruin.
Writers: Mike Mignola and Scott Allie
Artist: Sebastián Fiumara
Hellboy is gone, the world has gone to his namesake—overrun by terrible creatures from other dimensions—and just when the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense needs him the most, Abe Sapien goes AWOL. The famed fishman is probably the second most recognizable characters in the Hellboy universe, but aside from the occasional one-shot or miniseries, he’s never starred in his own ongoing title until now, and while I’m very happy to see it finally happen, I have to say that the first issue is rather bland.
Abe Sapien is a member of the B.P.R.D., or Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. As a half-fish, half-human creature, he fit in perfectly well with pyrokinetics, homunculi, and demons. His amphibious nature along with his intelligence and tenacity made him a star field agent, investigating paranormal activity and—should the need arise—protect the general population from paranormal threats. Until fairly recently his past has been a mystery, but now he knows who he was before he became “Abe Sapien.” This new knowledge apparently has set him on a path away from the B.P.R.D., but where that path leads is, for the moment, another mystery.
The majority of this issue takes place on a train as various travelers (hobo seems an antiquated—if accurate—term) try to find a safe place. They swap stories and war wounds while a mysterious figure huddles in the shadows of some cargo crates. Abe finally speaks up, and one of his traveling companions knocks away his hat, leading to a great panel where we see Abe’s face for the first time in the whole issue. Abe tries to calm them down, but his appearance and the recent events transpiring all across the country make it difficult. Eventually the B.P.R.D. finds him, but he manages to escape.
First issues are extremely difficult. There has to be a balance between exposition and action, and I found this to be a bit too heavy on one and light on the other. In terms of style, the way that Mignola and Allie choose to give the exposition was very effective. The conceit of the refugees telling their stories provides them with character and provides the reader with necessary background information. Unfortunately, the comic chooses to show the men telling the story instead of the actual story itself. There are a few times when we get glimpses of the action the men are talking about, but they are few and far between, and even though Fiumara manages to make each panel distinct through the manipulation of panel size, camera angle (for lack of a better term) and so on, it’s still panel after panel of men sitting around and talking.
The issue also focuses too much on the background information for the setting and not enough on Abe. Early in the issue we are given a scene where the B.P.R.D. basically recaps what has happened to Abe, but the information given is a bit vague and requires the reader to fill in the blanks based on knowledge of previous comics. As much as I enjoy the Hellboy universe, I’m not able to keep up with it as much as I would like, so there are some bits that are hinted at, but never adequately explained. This makes me worried about the accessibility of this title to new readers.
Abe Sapien is my second favorite Hellboy character, so I was very happy to see him get his own title; however, the issue spends far too much time establishing the setting and barely features the title character. As a first issue, it sizzles when it should explode, and while I’m in this for the long haul, being a Hellboy and Mignola fan, if I were a new reader coming to this title, I can’t say that I would stick with it. Hopefully the next issue will feature a better balance of exposition and action, but for now, this is a disappointment. Recommended for Hellboy fans.