2018 has been an exceptional year for Saladin Ahmed, who has written one of the best limited series for Marvel Comics with Black Bolt, which you can now get in two volumes. Although he still writes for Marvel with Exiles, Ahmed finds room for creator-owned work with Boom! Studios, where the writer steps into the world of 1970s pulp journalism with Abbott.
Set in the uncertain social and political climate of 1972 Detroit, where racial tensions are on the rise, African-American journalist Elena Abbott writes for the Detroit Daily with articles about police brutality, something that has upset the white authorities that run the city. Investigating a series of grisly crimes that the police have ignored, Abbott discovers that the mutilations are the work of dark occult forces, of which she has had previous encounters with.
From the initial issue, Ahmed gets across the political climate of conflicting race relations and at the center is our eponymous heroine, a strong, independent woman who writes for a white newspaper, where she very much acts as the Lois Lane to her editor’s Perry White, who respects her as a journalist and even a friend, despite his stereotypical male’s view of women.
Considering her tough exterior, Elena has to face her fears from the supernatural forces that took her husband, an event that has ruined her family life. The comic’s biggest triumph is how it embraces diversity as well as mixed and same-sex relationships as Elena tries to rekindle with former romances such as her ex-husband who is a policeman that is willing to help out, to her Asian ex-girlfriend who has connections with the criminal underworld.
Whilst reading this comic, I was expecting something more in the vein of Infidel (one of the three horror trade paperbacks you should read this Halloween), a horror title that successfully blended ghostly horror and relevant racial tensions. Despite the political backdrop and supernatural horror within Abbott, the two things never quite come together in the way Saladin Ahmed thinks it does and although there is an explanation behind the horror in rather clunky exposition, it feels a bit flimsy with certain things, such as why Elena is the only one to confront it and why is the only way to stop it flashing a bright light. Dramatically, it works for Elena’s arc, but the magic is loose, to say the least.
Although the horror doesn’t quite get under your skin, artist Sami Kivelä doesn’t hold back in showing graphic content as the mutilations of both man and animal are horrific. With its 70s pulp setting – presented in muted colors by Jason Wordie – this is a visually stunning read as Kivelä’s gritty artwork uses impressive panel layouts to create well-crafted action sequences, including a car chase from the end of the second issue to the beginning of the third.
This has already been a good year for Saladin Ahmed and although Abbott doesn’t reach the heights of his other works, or even greater horror titles of recent years, this is an entertaining piece of supernatural pulp fiction.