Previously: Abbott #3.
Picking up two days after Abbott #3, this issue sees Elena prove her desire to pursue the truth is not defined by whether or not she has a job. She’s still going to push forward, even if she has to do it alone. Oh, and this pursuit may just lead her into Hell; I don’t know.
Listen, I am loving the story of this series. The character of Elena Abbott is so well-defined, and her motivations are clear. I don’t have any complaints about how this series is being written; in fact, this issue takes the story in a direction I was not really anticipating… well, maybe it does. I’ll get to what I mean shortly, but first, we must discuss Sami Kivelä’s art in this issue.
Sami Kivelä shines immaculately here. From his visual representation of Elena drunkenly listening to John Coltrane’s Blue Train, to his use of a four-panel layout to illustrate four separate phone calls with a single image, to his use of scattered panels across a desk to play out a conversation, to his use of dynamic positioning to illustrate a character moving through a hedge maze: there is so much good art here and so many good decisions. This singular issue could serve as Sami Kivelä’s entire portfolio, but it doesn’t have to because he consistently does terrific work. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: read Beautiful Canvas.
Beyond the base line illustrations, the coloring by Jason Wordie is also a highlight here. It feels like this story is getting trippier by the minute, and the colors are certainly along for that ride. More and more panels, increasing with each issue, are basically seen through the prism of a lava lamp, figuratively speaking, and I’m loving that. Even Jim Campbell’s lettering gets to shake things up, and as Elena moves closer to fully accepting her role as a bringer of light, things are only going to get wilder for this art team. I’m really looking forward to how they complement the story Saladin Ahmed is writing, especially if it goes anywhere close to where I have the slightest feeling it could be going.
Here’s where I’m finally gonna get to this issue’s plot. I’ve got some wild-eyed ideas of what I think is happening, but before I go through the looking glass too far, I do want to discuss what undeniably happened in this issue.
First, Elena went to the Hall of Records, and I don’t know how to feel about how much I enjoyed seeing a comic book scene where someone asks for property records and then literally just sits there waiting for them to be brought to her. But here we are, and I loved it. I really did, and the reason is threefold. For one, It’s illustrated really well. For two, this is what Elena does; this is the character. For three, the way it’s written is great. We see Elena has an established relationship with this clerk, and she knows how to talk to her to get her to help speed the process along. This just serves to further build the history and character of Elena Abbott. It’s a simple scene that does a lot.
The other things is, shocker, Elena is still dealing with racists–and racist cops, at that. We see two levels of racism here, from two different officers. One speaks to Elena disrespectfully and dismissively, but they’re in a public setting and James, Elena’s ex who is a sergeant, intervenes before things can get too heated. The second one, though, is some guy speaking to Elena on the phone, so he feels completely free to be his whole-racist-ass self. Both of these scenes represent racism, even though only one is explicit with it.
Now, for me to get stupid about things and try my best to talk about abstract hunches in a way that is at least somewhat readable. Okay, so we’ve already had a centaur, right? Elena had a badass car chase with it and everything, so we’ve known the occult events happening in this series involved mythical creatures, for whatever reason. Here, though? In this issue? We get a veritable panoply of Greek mythology thrown in our faces.
Okay, I may be exaggerating there, but we do get actually get a literal Minotaur in an actual labyrinth, and we get a fucking satyr. Those things happened, but what do they mean? And what do they portend? I don’t know, but I’ll just cut directly to the chase: I was reminded of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, specifically Inferno, when Dante and Virgil encounter the Minotaur. Then I’m like: Is Elena Dante? Is Detroit Florence? Are we about to watch Elena descend into Hell, if only metaphorically?
See, I am wont to do this. I see one hint of something, and then I go down a rabbit hole that probably just leads to me getting dirt on my face. Nevertheless, whether or not Abbott is attempting some level of a modern-day retelling of Inferno–it’s most likely not–I love when a story gets me so engrossed as to have me thinking about these kinds of things, even if it does make me look and feel like a complete madman. It’s a good feeling.
Abbott #4 Review Score
Abbott #4 - Chapter Four: "Makes Me Wanna Holler"
Writer: Saladin Ahmed | Illustrator: Sami Kivelä | Color: Jason Wordie | Letters: Jim Campbell | Cover: Taj Tenfold | Designer: Michelle Ankley | Editor: Eric Harburn | Associate Editor: Chris Rosa | Publisher: Boom! Studios