I enjoyed the first issue of sci-fi writer Saladin Ahmed's Black Bolt series for Marvel Comics, but I ultimately didn't continue with the book, because Black Bolt is the very definition of a one-note character. The best writing in the world couldn't make an aloof mute king with a tuning fork on his forehead a compelling protagonist. But there was so much talent in evidence in that first issue of Black Bolt that when I saw Ahmed had a new creator-owned series coming out from Boom! Studios, I was eager to give it a try.
Abbott, published for the first time yesterday, is a new series about an African-American newspaper reporter in 1972 Detroit. Elena Abbott is described in the first issue of Abbott as a "black Lois Lane," but Ahmed admits in interviews that he envisions the character as more along the lines of the cult TV show Kolchak the Night Stalker.
A tough Black journalist on the mean streets of 70s Detroit, fighting supernatural menaces? Yes, please! Abbott has all the makings of a great comic series, and artist Sami Kivelä is a revelation: he draws apartments that look lived in, and figures that have lived entire lives. It's a flat-out gorgeous book.
It's a shame, then, that the first issue of Abbott suffers from a pretty severe cass of first-issue-itis. There are a lot of word balloons here covering up Kivelä's beautiful artwork, and a lot of them could have been trimmed. The exposition flows hot and heavy, with a lot of telling and not enough showing. Early in the issue, Abbott shows up at a crime scene with her own camera. She's greeted by an older white photographer. This is their exchange:
—Holy crap, Abbott, Fred's got you taking your own pictures now? That's ridiculous. He giving you any kind of budget?
—Hello, Murray. It's not Fred. It's the higher-ups. Someone didn't care for my police brutality stories. I'm being punished.
—That's too bad. You're a good reporter, Abbott. A damn good reporter. Better than the little @#$%& I'm working with now.
—Thank you, Murray. And you're the best crime photographer in Detroit.
—Now you're just flattering me.
—Well, it is possible I'm hoping you'll tell me what the police know here, since no one else will.
This exchange desperately needs an editor. There's way too much backstory and repetition and cross-talk for the first few pages of a comic. I'd love to see Murray and Abbott's history relayed through an intimate exchange that didn't lay everything out so plainly.
As the issue carries on, Abbott starts to pick up in pace, building to a cliffhanger that really sets the premise in motion. I'm definitely coming back for the second issue. But I'm also willing to bet that the second issue of Abbott should have been the first issue; dropping the reader in the middle of the action and forcing them to figure out the story as it goes along is always preferable to explaining everything.