Abbott #4 follows Elena Abbott as she tries to gather as many allies as she can against the dark forces hunting her and potentially threatening the world. Facing horrific chimeras of animals fused with dead human spirits, she’ll need all the help she can get to restore balance to the light and the dark. Does this issue move the mystery forward in an interesting way?
For the most part, yes. I’ll start with what few gripes I have to get them out of the way. At this point in the series we’ve more or less completely lost the noir feeling I was getting from the first two issues and the series feels a lot more like suspenseful urban fantasy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I loved the mood of the earlier issues and wish it had maintained throughout the series. I think that shift ties into my other main critique. The plot of Abbott is, barring a major twist at the end, fairly predictable. Without spoiling anything, it was clear what the fate of a certain character was and Abbott’s use of her camera against the evils spirits that attack her is beginning to feel repetitive. I like the metaphor of Abbott bringing evil things to light literally and figuratively, spiritually, and politically, but the actual mechanic has gone a little stale. I appreciate that it seems like that will be played with in the coming final issue.
All that being said, I continue to not have enough good to say about the characterization in this series. Writer Saladin Ahmed gives each character such distinct personalities, even if they appear in one scene and likely won’t be seen again. Not only do the characters sound real, they feel real in that they each have their own motivations, goals, and beliefs that don’t always line up conveniently with Abbott’s. This puts certain characters at odds with our protagonist in ways that make it clear that they aren’t going to conveniently bend their will to the plot for the sake of a neat resolution. This especially comes through Amelia and her scene with Abbott in this issue makes me hungry for an Amelia-centric spinoff story. Ahmed also continues to shine when it comes to portraying the racial dynamics of 1970s Detroit, refusing to shy away from a lot of ugly behaviors that found their roots in earlier years which grew thicker and thicker as time went on.
Sami Kivelä continues to deliver stunning line art in this issue. Faces are expressive, backgrounds are detailed and clean, and the monsters are terrifyingly gorgeous. One of the aforementioned chimeras featuring a lion’s body looks ferocious and foul and the ghoulish smoke that always accompanies these demons continues to set the tone expertly. Jason Wordie’s colors bring the line art to life in gradients that continue to make the world of Abbott feel alive and convey the shifting nature of its balance between light and dark well. Without the newspaper clippings book-ending the issue as in the past three, we see a bit less of Jim Campbell’s letters, but he does a great job with supernatural elements like the chimeras’ growls that travel outside the word balloon.
Before I finish, I have to mention the excellent paneling done in this issue. The layouts are so clever and whether they are a result of the script or choices made by Kivelä, I applaud the team for thinking outside the box this way. Overall, though I have some complaints about the mood and some plot details, the series continues to feature great characters, stunning art, and important themes that have always been timely and feel incredibly prevalent today.