Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly to champion a book that we adore. This week Arpad recommends ‘Abbott Vol. 1’ TPB, available now from BOOM! Studios. 

Required Reading: Abbott
Cover to ‘Abbot Vol.1’ TPB. Art by Taj Tenfold/BOOM! Studios

by Arpad Okay. Sometimes you get a story that goes beyond being told and the reader shares the hero’s space. Some stories are writ with so much love for the setting that the book becomes a home for the author and a home for the reader, too. Abbott is both. Abbott is more.

Mutilated people of color are coming back as beasts of legend. The bullpen doesn’t want to hear it. The cops can’t be bothered. One reporter, a black woman, an outside voice who has forced her way into the limelight with the quality of her work and her passion for the truth, stands between Detroit and Hades. This is Detroit versus evil, and the champion of good is Elena Abbott.

Saladin Ahmed is writing a supernatural story, but in a way that hooks us up to Elena Abbott with depth that defies the fantasy in the setting. Abbott is a journalist, sharp, multifaceted, uncompromising in her work, rigorous in her routines. As she gathers information on a string of grisly murders, the reader sees the angles in real time with the reporter. This unbelievable story unfolding feels natural as we are there with her.

We are her, experiencing her world. Rooting out the truth. Walking her beat. To get to the heart of the mystery, we’ll catch meals and drinks in Abbott’s favorite dives, meet up with the people in her life– friends, informants, sometimes both. Time passes in Abbott told in chain-smoked cigarettes.

Sami Kivelä matches Ahmed’s lively script with clear and vivid artwork. Though there is texture here and there, the bulk of the linework is high relief solid black, open spaces with well defined contours and details added as needed. A vague hat tip to the Bronze Age style that was rising when Abbott was set. If you like John Romita’s Spider-Man, vibe on this.

Ahmed and Kivelä capture the living look of the era, its places and things. Neighborhoods and their residents. Typewriters, cameras, fashion, and cars. Blue Note and Tamla. Hippies. A world shown through urban clutter, from dynamic angles, close in on faces. Black beauty is realized with accuracy and adoration. And then there’s monsters. Abbott has chimeric, ancient abominations that exude living smoke– but maintain touch with their humanity.

Jason Wordie is the left hand bass to Kivelä’s right hand melodies. Wordie resists the retro impulse to go with flat colors and industrial textures, instead making an array of nuanced choices. Painterly washes and gradients, a counterpoint to the stark line art, and yet it achieves the essence of the printing process and paper stock of the time. The two artists weave vivid magic that covers the full 88.

So Abbott is jazz, with Jim Campbell laying letters back in the groove. The typewriter font pounding out the mood. The speech is in a broad, jaunty art deco that feels alive with casual speed. You can really hear volume and tone in the text. Like the colors, the lettering is a modern approach that fits vintage perfect.

The name of their number is “some crazy white people mess” in D major. The death cult mutilators are rooted in white supremacy and classic Attic mythology.  White intellectuals subjecting people of color to inhumane rituals. A deadly piece of the larger problem (then and now), white patriarchy.

White police ready to scapegoat black folks for crimes they didn’t commit and write off crimes committed against black people. Newsmen fan the flames of racial tension to further a false narrative and sell copy. Neighborhoods thrive while downtown is foreclosed, Detroit is fine, Detroit is in trouble, it depends on who you ask, who you listen to.

Reporters’ strength is in their intellect, ability to observe, analyze, and synthesize. Great reporters– Elena Abbott– speak truth to power. But without contacts, a reporter is nothing. Context, perspective, it comes from the collective and being a part of the collective. Friends, lovers, lives cross and at the many cruxes stands Elena Abbott. Together, Detroit has hope.

Jazz music is art, but it is math, too, and the relation of Abbott is community is greater than patriarchy.

BOOM! Studios/$14.99

Written by Saladin Ahmed.

Illustrated by Sami Kivelä.

Colored by Jason Wordie.

Lettered by Jim Campbell.

Check out this 11-page preview of ‘Abbott Vol. 1’ TPB, courtesy of BOOM! Studios!

More Required Reading…

‘On a Sunbeam’ a story of passion, purpose and agency

‘Tumult’ a warped love story told with unparalleled vision and an excess of ink

Bold, frightening ‘Infidel’ a battle of faith and vision, of optimism against pessimism