ABBOTT #2 by Saladin Ahmed, Sami Kivelä, and Jason Wordie
Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivelä's ABBOTT #2 is even more exciting than the first. With even more gruesome artwork and tantalizing plot twists, the BOOM! Studio's comic is a spellbinding read.
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Aretha Franklin’s 1967 hit “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” says, “If you want a do-right-all-day woman/You’ve got to be a do-right-all-night man.” In Saladin Ahmed’s latest issue of ABBOTT, subtitled “Do Right Woman,” the do-right-man is, in fact, optional. Indeed, Elena Abbott is just as badass as ever. But in ABBOTT #2, she has to do right all day and all night to keep up with former lovers, conflict at the Detroit Daily, and the powerful evil that is out to get her.

ABBOTT #1 introduced readers to Elena Abbott, the only black female reporter at the Detroit Daily. In 1970s Detroit, neither her peers nor the police treat her with much respect. Elena relies on a close network of informants to stay on top the news, which for her involves uncovering police brutality in the largely segregated inner city. While the first issue sets the tone for a politically engaged comic, it only just hinted at the magical forces lurking in Detroit.

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Saladin Ahmed’s writing is just as quick as in issue #1, and Sami Kivelä outdoes himself with fantastic layouts and a mix of grotesque evil and sexy character design.  Plus, ABBOTT #2 provides exciting new details about the ancient and shadowy evil that is trying its best to track Elena down.

A Flash in the Dark

In a white hooded robe and red mask, the monster that caught up to Elena in ABBOTT #1 closes in. Kivelä’s masterful rendering makes the monster even more grotesque, with gaping mouth and wormy purple and red squiggles oozing around it. However, with a click of her camera, Elena is able to scare the magical creature away — at least momentarily. It is as if the flash of light — meant to shed light on and document reality — is too great a threat for the shadow monster.

One of the main messages in ABBOTT is that journalism is a form of detective work. Indeed, Elena’s work uncovers the truth on behalf of the people. Although white police officers and the white owners of the Detroit Daily criticize Elena, she is well-respected in the black community for her work. ABBOTT #2 continues with the metaphor, this time developing the evil force that is out to get her.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Kivelä brilliantly lays out the first two pages of ABBOTT #2. For example, the panels emphasize the dangers bearing down on Elena. On page one, small frames narrow in on Elena from above, before quickly revealing the monster with its scythe swinging towards her. But as she flashes her camera, the monster recoils. The small frames open to an expanded image. As a result, the page bursts with energy matching Elena’s camera flash, saving readers from the claustrophobic frames. Elena stays central, as if the beam of bright light comes from her body as much as the camera. The dynamic sets the comic’s action right away. Moreover, we see how Elena sheds light on the world around her. Elena and her camera, the symbol of her investigative work, are the central figures of good against a frightening evil.

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Magic At Work

ABBOTT #2 dives further into the world of occult magic. Instead of police violence or hate crimes, Elena now must outwit the evil that wants desperately to destroy her, the very same evil that killed her lover. And in the second issue, Elena has to rely on old friends — however untrustworthy — to escape harm. Kivelä and Jason Wordie’s gruesome purple and pink shadows make the Detroit streets stand out. Those colors underscore this comic’s scintillating layer of mystery. Ahmed’s writing casts a tantalizing spell on readers as Elena works nonstop to uncover the truth. With danger on Elena’s heels, Ahmed leaves readers on the edge of their seats. Only a few pieces of the puzzle start to emerge, many of them involving Elena’s past. As the story unfolds, Ahmed’s dialogue moves at breakneck speed, perfectly embodying the pace of Elena’s dangerous investigation.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Ahmed and Kivelä also brilliantly captures the feel of 1970s Detroit. The writing includes prime ’70s details, from lingo to drug references. And Kivelä expertly matches with fashion (including big earrings, Elena’s gorgeous blue mustang) and background details (like the run-down hippie head shop). Still, among the dramatic cityscape, Kivelä’s knack for illustrating the horrible evil forces makes ABBOTT #2 an exciting read.

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Do Right Women

Although Elena continues to work alone, Ahmed fleshes out her network of friends and informants in ABBOTT #2. It is thrilling to report that this issue passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. ABBOTT #2 gives a few more lines to the delicate Detroit Daily secretary, Carol, who clearly has a soft spot for Elena. In this issue, Elena also encounters Amelia Chee. The erotic tension could be cut with a knife, suggesting Amelia is more than an old friend. Indeed, there is more than a hint of queerness added to the second issue. Ahmed joyfully plays with homoerotics on several occasions, and Kivelä’s artwork plays up the heat. Instead of being crass, the result of Ahmed and Kivelä’s careful queering makes Elena an even more dynamic character.

Final Thoughts on ABBOTT #2

ABBOTT #2 reinforces the issues of misogyny in the workplace. Abbott’s boss, Fred, is one of the few white men who pay her any respect. Nevertheless, he repeatedly voices his annoyance at Elena’s feminism. Wonderfully, Elena pays no attention to Fred or any of the men standing in her way. Indeed, Elena is not one to follow rules, and ABBOTT #2 takes the ride along with her. Ahmed and Kivelä blend magic, feminism, and righteous adventure to make a completely satisfying comic.

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