One of the things I've appreciated about the "B.P.R.D." comics is that Mike Mignola and John Arcudi aren't afraid to periodically stop and jump into the past for an "untold tale" of one of the characters. For instance, we all know that Abe Sapien makes it to the present day, so for most writers the idea of telling a flashback set in 1985 would never happen. Where's the tension, right?
Well, I'll tell you where the tension is. It's in "Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest" #1.
Mignola and Arcudi are smart, because they've structured this comic in a way that never lets you stop and think for very long. We get a brief set-up, Abe goes with the new character to the old abandoned house in search of a man who's been missing for 50 years, and then... all hell breaks loose. From that moment on, Mignola and Arcudi kick the comic into high gear, with one outbreak of horror after another in rapid succession.
In other words, it's what good old fashioned horror movies did, only it's on the page instead. By keeping the threats coming at a staccato pace, you get pulled into the story and the ever-increasing danger that Abe is finding himself. By the time Abe gets to stop and catch his breath, we're almost at the end of the first issue, and Abe's momentary dropping of his guard is of course the worst thing possible in that situation. Things go from bad to worse, and it's a great stopping point until we get the conclusion next month.
I'm not familiar with James Harren's art, but I like it. The old house on the lake -- or, for that matter, Abe approaching the lake itself -- just drips with atmosphere, the perfect introduction to this isolated area. And then, of course, everything explodes and Harren's cramped, wrinkled art is perfect for what comes next. From the sheriff's ugly face to the hideous creatures lurking in the hallways (and beyond), this is anything but a "clean" or "pretty" comic. Instead it oozes style, and it's just right for a monster-palooza of a comic. And when Abe goes up against the monsters in the hallway? Let's just say there's no doubt that Harren can draw action. It comes across intensely violent and physical, and helps sell the script by upping the intensity.
"Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest" #1 is a great opening to the mini-series; if the second half is just as strong, it'll be yet another strong addition to Mignola's little comic book universe. Who says you can't tell a flashback story and still make it tense? I feel like I'll be on pins and needles until the conclusion shows up. As always, fun stuff.