"Abe Sapien: Volume 2 - The Devil Does Not Jest" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Originally Published as Abe Sapien: The Haunted Boy, Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plains #1-2, and Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest #1-2
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Patric Reynolds, Peter Snejbjerg, and James Harren
2012, 143 Pages
Trade Paperback released on April 18th, 2012
B.P.R.D. has had such a long history, creator Mike Mignola can pick out a segment of time and insert a story there to help flesh out the past of the characters and this organization. There isn't one long timeline. Mignola is filling in the blanks along the way for Hellboy, the B.P.R.D. and in this case, Abe Sapien. The second volume of Abe's solo adventures collects three stories (The Haunted Boy, The Abyssal Plains, and The Devil Does Not Jest) set in the 1980s. Each provides a unique supernatural creature for our amphibian hero to take on.
First up, in The Haunted Boy, Abe is called out to Hardin, Vermont on what looks like a basic haunting. Two boys fell into a frozen lake. One made it out alive. Now a ghost is appearing above the water. Abe decides to check it out as things are slow around the Bureau offices. What he finds is something much darker and rather unsettling for any parent. This story is probably the creepiest of the bunch as it deals with evil hiding in a place you'd least expect it.
Patric Reynolds drew The Haunted Boy. I'm not a big fan of his artwork as it looks too sketchy, but I do admire his attention to detail. There's a scene set in the boy's room and since it's 1982, Reynolds filled it with the kind of stuff that a kid would be into at that time. There's a Millennium Falcon, an E.T. poster, and more.
The Abyssal Plain takes the idea of serving one's country to an extreme. A soldier aboard a submarine during World War II is ordered to protect a mysterious crate with his life. The sub sinks and years later Abe shows up looking for the crate as it's said to contain a powerful artifact called Melchiorre's Burgonet that would be very dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands. It turns out that after years of exposure to the burgonet, the soldier charged with its safekeeping didn't let death stop him from his duty.
Click images to enlarge.
On art duties for The Abyssal Plain is Peter Snejbjerg. Aside from having a last name that I can't pronounce, Snejbjerg has a very clean style. There's no weird shading or hatch marks. It's just pure art and it works well. There's a fantastic shot when Abe opens up the sub that's been sitting at the bottom of the sea for decades. He pops the hatch and a dozen bodies spill out. It's so friggin' creepy and fitting for the scene. One thing that bugged me was how Snejbjerg drew Abe. He has this darker patch of blue under his chin that makes his mouth look like that of a ventriloquist's dummy.
Finally we have the title story, The Devil Does Not Jest. Abe is called in for a favor by the grandson of a demonology scholar named Garver. The old guy went missing years ago, but some new facts popped up and Abe is asked to check it out in an unofficial capacity. What he finds is a whole lot of tragedy and the body of a huge demon in the basement of the last known residence of Garver. Garver thought he could handle some summoning spells, but things got out of hand and he paid the ultimate price for it. Abe takes care of business and proves that he can go toe-to-toe with the big guns. Sure, Hellboy is known for beating the crap out of monsters, but Abe could give him a run for his money after this story.
I like artist James Harren's rendition of Abe the best of the bunch. He has that ventriloquist look too, but it's a bit more subdued here. His gills are more prominent too. Harren also gets the most to play with, with the bizarre creatures that inhabit Garver's home, not to mention the big demon corpse.
Also collected in this volume are Dave Johnson's fantastic covers for each issue. Each one is gorgeous and very stylized. His work was my favorite art of the book.
Abe Sapien is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters of the B.P.R.D. world. He's a bit more subtle than Hellboy, using his mind more than his fists, but he can throw down with the best of them and proves it here. The 1980s were a crazy time for Abe with all sorts of cases. I wonder what the ‘90s held for him. Something tells me it wasn't neon t-shirts and snap bracelets.