Saladin Ahmed’s 2018 Abbott is a horror comic. It was nominated for the Hugo and the Stoker.
Illustrator: Sami Kivelä. Colorist: Jason Wordie.
Detroit, 1972. Elena Abbott is a reporter, whose hard work should earn her accolades. Her boss’s bosses at the Detroit Daily are unenthusiastic about employing a reporter who is a woman and black. Detroit police are similarly unenthusiastic about a reporter whose stories on flagrant police brutality inexplicably don’t take the side of the police. Nevertheless, she persists.
Called to the scene of a brutal outrage, Abbott finds the cops baffled. The scene has elements all too familiar to her.
Persons unknown have slaughtered a horse, carrying off most of its torso. Who did this and why is unknown, which to the police suggests black radicals, possibly Black Panthers. Finding some random black person to prosecute for unsolved crimes has always worked in the past and there is no obvious reason it could not work now.
What the chain-smoking, hard-drinking reporter knows, but most Detroiters do not, is that there are weird, threatening entities living in the shadows. The dead horse and the atrocities that follow could just be some act of animal cruelty carried out by a random crazy. It isn’t.
Abbott cannot put a name to the party or parties responsible, but they know who she is. She fends off supernatural attacks with abilities she had no idea she possessed; she digs into the case using all her reporter’s skills. This is enough to keep her alive but not enough to protect her job; the player on the other side is very well connected.
Abbott must win every time to stay alive. Her enemy only must get lucky once.
Well, I can’t like everything.
All the elements in this work are familiar from previous horror works I’ve encountered. Anyone with a working knowledge of horror and American culture could see where the plot had to go.
There’s nothing actively wrong with the work, aside from clunky dialogue and exposition1, but I kept waiting for something that would raise this above a competent recapitulation of proven tropes, but that grand moment never happened. The work seems to be happy to stay within the borders of established horror.
Obviously other people saw something here I can’t.
- Some people might find it awfully convenient that Abbott turns out to have magic monster-killing powers, but presumably if she didn’t, she would have found some other method to deal with the creatures.