Plot: The head-honcho of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) sends Hellboy’s aquatic, supporting character Abraham Sapien to capture a powerful Hindu dagger thrust into the chest of a dead Dutch warlock at the bottom of the sea. Before he and Agent Van Fleet can reach the sunken ship that houses the warlock’s body, Abe Sapien is ambushed by monsters of the deep, controlled a mysterious old woman.
Commentary: From the meticulous narrated opening to the gasps of air as our heroes are dragged to the ocean floor in the end, The Drowning #1 is an intricate, astonishing, and thoroughly gratifying story. Abe Sapien is a fish man, able to breathe underwater; gills protrude from his neck like a ruffled collar, giving him a strange mix of austerity and monster-movie chic. He is a simultaneously ugly and alluring.
Yet Abe is also a very human and introspective character. There’s a scene where Abe delays speaking to his boss by fumbling for conversation with a female colleague to whom he’s obviously attracted. Abe, whose face is otherwise emotionless, emotes not only his desire to be near this woman, but apprehension that the head of the BPRD wants to see to him.
As Abe embarks on his mission, the moody, realistic atmosphere provides not only for realism, but a false sense of security. His dark, shadowy world is rendered deceptively real, contrasted in muted hues of yellow, orange and beige. When backup from the BPRD arrive on island city of Saint-Sebastien, the tiny streets and ports seem natural and commonplace. The island does not seem the home for a mysterious old lady who can control octopi, giant eels, and other sea creatures. But it is and you don’t see it coming.
Unexpectedly, the exposition, which is intense and complex, doesn’t hold the story’s pace at all. The conversation between Abe and his boss reveals the dead warlock’s connection to the dagger, his killer, the sunken ship, and the importance of each, without becoming tedious or listless. Instead, intrigue builds with each detail, each revelation, making Abe’s assignment not only vital but also unprecedented.
Abe Sapien: The Drowning provides every emotional and narrative beat you expect while slipping in another ten right under your nose -- and it's only chapter one!
Final Word: BUY IT NOW!
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