By Saladin Ahmed, Sami Kivela, Jason Wordie, Jim Campbell
Unlike the 70’s Detroit that Abbot #1 takes place in, everything about this book works together harmoniously. Ahmed threads together the less than subtle racism of the era with hominess, grit, and a bit of the supernatural. The main character, Abbot, is a black woman working in journalism who’s clearly packed to the brim with minute characteristics. This first issue puts a big focus on establishing who she is as her occupation forces the plot forward. Each moment with Abbot is exciting, especially thanks to some clever layouts. Smoking is in style again—at least for creating interesting time jumps. Wordie’s colors stand out as their watercolor style provides texture. The effect lends itself to the grittiness of the hard-hitting journalism.
In only twenty-two pages, Abbot #1 establishes its main character as one that will surely be adored long after the series itself ends. Abbot sticks to her guns and is a veteran in her field as she puts the opposition to shame simply by doing her job. The first scene invites readers to see this first hand as a case unfolds and blame is placed reasonlessly upon black militant groups. Our hero is the only one to speak out against the injustice, aside from a charmingly bumbling photographer, who at the very least is willing to help Abbot when others refuse to.
Somehow, each one of Ahmed’s characters is equally deep. Almost every introduction of even the most irrelevant character evokes some sort of emotional reaction, evocative only of our own world in which judgement is passed frequently and obstinately. Abbot’s ability to capture a time and place is remarkable.
Kivela’s illustrations are full of life. They add the touch of authenticity that pushes Ahmed’s concepts from imagined to real. Lava lamps sitting on top of a bar and family pictures on the wall behind it insist that the bartender is, in fact, a person. The contemplation behind each panel is clear. Again, though, the layouts are the true stand outs of this issue. The arrangement of these panels, especially when focused around a cigarette is nothing less than satisfying. Time and setting are portrayed seamlessly in these scenes to the point that the reader is unaware they’re consuming the information.
Lettering from Jim Campbell adds to the flow as well, as looking at each page as a whole shows a clear and deliberate through line of text. Most impressive, though, is when his lettering mimics a bullet going through a body, adding drama to one character’s berating of another.
Abbot #1 is the first in what will hopefully be a long run of crime drama done right. It’s entertaining, yet true to its defining characteristics, such as setting. Ahmed seems to be getting at something rather than simply tempting readers with a juicy story. The entire team, though, should be lauded for this loud entry. Truly, this issue is a landmark.