Among the many spin-offs from Mike Mignola’s Hellboy is the series Abe Sapien, relating the exploits of the eponymous hero, the amphibious man introduced as part of the B.P.R.D. This collection, The Devil Does Not Jest, is the second Abe Sapien collection and contains three stories.
“The Haunted Boy,” which opens the volume, relates one of Abe’s first field assignments — a case of what could be loosely termed “mistaken identity” involving a haunted lake. “Abyssal Plain” is about a sunken submarine that had been transporting a mysterious artifact. Abe recovers the artifact, but no one is prepared for what comes after it. The title story sees Abe in Maine, on a — well, call it a “busman’s holiday” – tracking down a demonologist whose work he’s admired.
The stories share a sort of “business as usual” tone – no matter how outrageous the events depicted, the telling and the resolution are matter-of-fact. This serves, in an odd sort of way, to heighten the surreality of the stories – although, considering the nature of the events, not to mention the characters involved (human and otherwise), maybe it’s not so surprising.
The characters are strongly drawn and well developed – Sal, the new member of B.P.R.D. who makes his first appearance in “Abyssal Plain,” is quite vivid, and the grandson of the demonologist in “The Devil Does Not Jest,” is equally so, even though his appearance is brief. The same holds true of the other characters, although Abe himself remains fairly understated – but I suspect that’s the nature of the beast.
The art, by Patric Reynolds (“The Haunted Boy’), Peter Snejbjerg (“Abyssal Plain”), and James Harren (“The Devil Does Not Jest”), while displaying variations in style, does maintain a certain consistency, although a little out of the range of Mignola’s own blocky, rough-hewn renderings. Layouts are fairly standard, but the narrative flow is clear and there is enough variation in frame size and placement to keep it interesting.
The volume finishes with a gallery of character (and artifact) designs and covers, both for individual stories and variants.
For those into all things Hellboy, this is probably a must, although in the final analysis, the stories come off as rather slight. But then, they are short stories, so I suppose it’s a bit much to expect a lot of development.
(Dark Horse Books, 2012) Collects Abe Sapien: The Haunted Boy, Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain #1-2, and Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest #1-2.