Pullbox Reviews: It’s 1973 and Abbott’s Back…But So’s the Umbra!

Writer: Saladin Ahmed

Illustrator: Sami Kivela

Colorist: Mattia Iacono

Letterer: Jim Campbell

Cover Artists: Taj Tenfold, Raul Allen & Jenny Frison

Publisher: Boom! Studios

Available: January 20 at your LCS or ComiXology

Price: $3.99

The team of Saladin Ahmed (Miles Morales: Spider-Man) and Sami Kivela (Tommy Gun Wizards) are back for another round in Boom! Studio’s Abbott: 1973. Set for publication January 20, this supernatural thriller picks up a year after where last year’s Abbott miniseries left off.

It’s early autumn, 1973 and Detroit is poised to elect its first Black mayor. Lightbringer and investigative journalist without fear Elena Abbott, in a comfortable if hushed relationship with her well-to-do past and future girlfriend Amelia following the harrowing events of last year, has taken a pay cut to write for the Detroit Chronicle. A respected independent press Black newspaper, the Chronicle was recently purchased by Mr. Manning, an ex-Marine as aggressive about civil rights and the journalist’s role in defending them as he is his sexist beliefs.

All—ok, most—sounds good. Except it’s not.

Elena’s been having bad dreams. Ever since she defeated the evil wizard Bellcamp and his plot to deform and enslave the minorities of Detroit last year—serious nightmares leaving her screaming and thrashing in her bed. She hears the shadows, sees the whispers creeping through Detroit in the night. Bellcamp, for all his vile bravado and for all his having ushered the Umbra, that mysterious force of world-consuming darkness into Southeastern Michigan, was small potatoes. She knows she’s the Lightbringer, and that this power comes with it an equivalent duty: she must protect her city from the Umbra. What she doesn’t know is the makeup of the forces aligned against her—or that one figure among them is closer to her than she ever dreamed possible.

And that figure is bend on eliminating the Lightbringer.

Saladin Ahmed continues to weave a wicked tale in Abbott: 1973. Incorporating the intensity of the civil unrest and uncertainty of the early 1970’s (an era eerily reminiscent of today) and coupling it with a nigh-genocidal creeping evil, he’s established the elements for a really solid horror story. The tension of the era is a constant for all of the characters, though each address and react to it in differing ways, and it resonates with the plot, even here in its formative stages. Populating the book with interesting characters and snappy dialogue doesn’t hurt—and Ahmed’s offered us no shortage of these as well. His Umbra and Lightbringer mythology established in the first arc last year, I’m chomping at the bit to watch its evolution, as well as the evolving world of Elena Abbott.

Kivela’s lines continue to slay. His style in Abbott is a bit throwback—the book just looks like 1973. Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s a huge fan of Romita, Colan, Byrne and Buscema—all of them reflected in Abbott, Kivela just speaks to me. And not only is his art on point for its time and setting, it’s just damn good to boot. There’s a fair amount of panel manipulation and play to accentuate plot points and key interactions, and the visual flow of the book is top notch. I’m seriously going to have to look into more of this gentleman’s work.

And Kivela’s lines are given royalty-level color treatment by Mattia Iacono. Let’s face it: anyone who lived through them knows the 1970’s was just an ugly time visually, especially in the Midwest—and if you’re going to set a book in that time and space, you’re going to have to show that…but somehow without losing your reader’s visual interest. Employing a full spectrum palette, Iacono is able to somehow do this. We see Detroit, circa 1973, in full grimy glory, but with a vibrance and panache that engage the eye.

And the few panels where the creeping evil makes its appearance, and Kivela and Iacono get to play? Lights. Out.

Campbell does his typically top-notch lettering service on Abbott: 1973. I mean, there’s a reason he seems to show up as letterer on the greater balance of Boom! books I end up reviewing. In this one, he gets to play a bit with fonts and placement, integrating all  such that the flow of Ahmed’s dialogue and story and Kivela and Iacono’s art is enhanced, rather than disrupted.

Now, bear in mind that this is issue one of five, if paced like the first arc, and as such, we get just a taste of what’s to come. Like any good horror writer, Ahmed’s going for the slow burn, building up the tension and intensity, letting us soak in the intensity of his setting and sip at the haunting doom to come. This here is an excellent first course.

Abbott: 1973 is scheduled for general release this Wednesday, January 20 from Boom! Studios, and will be available via your Local Comic Store, ComiXology and Amazon for the low, low (just not quite 1973 low) price of $3.99.


Review by Andy Patch
Contributing Editor

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