Overview: A stand alone issue that focuses on a pair of lost souls Abe stumbles upon in his wanderings. Choosing prose over dialogue, Scott Allie weaves a tragic and affecting tale of the collateral damage caused by the rampant destruction of the world in the wake of the “Hell on Earth” reality. Combined with gorgeously rendered art by Max Fiumara, this issue separates itself dramatically from the previous 11 issues with it’s almost poetic approach to storytelling.
Art: Max Fiumara burst onto the BPRD scene in 2012, with his debut on “The Transformation of J.H. O’Donnell”; since then he’s joined forces with brother Sebastian to rotate art duties on Abe’s solo series. Max has a surrealistic style that works very well with the monsters and mayhem that usually occur in a Mignolaverse book, but this issue he showcases a wonderful ability to depict regular people in a surreal setting. His characters still have rather wide-set eyes and large heads, but not so much that’s it’s a distraction. I was very impressed with Max this issue, because of how the story is structured. Every page has three page-wide panels that jump from past to present, character to character, with no specific segue narratively. This is not an easy thing to accomplish, but Fiumara pulls it off adeptly, and Dave Stewart aids this process by using distinct color palettes to differentiate time and place.
There are really three stories taking place this issue, and they are presented in a rotating montage fashion. The first, at present, has Abe wandering upon an farmhouse inhabited by a couple of people not keen on company–especially anyone looking like Abe–and the consequences of that encounter. The other two provide an explanation of who these two new characters are, and how they ended up in their current predicaments. The stories are anything but uplifting, and the team of Fiumara and Stewart do a magnificent job keeping with the melancholy feel of the narrative, allowing us as readers to immerse ourselves in this world. I don’t know how many creative teams would be able to pull of a task like this with such proficiency, it shows that the trust Mignola and Alllie put in them is well placed, and bodes well for future issues.
Story: I was caught off guard at first by the choice to exclusively use narration boxes to tell this story. It was a bold decision by Allie, but in the end I think it was a wise one. Despite not fully absorbing it all upon first read, I was deeply moved by the story, and spellbound by the language and it’s ability to create a discomforting ambiance. At times it felt a bit verbose and indulgent, but after reaching the last page I was overcome with an unease and sadness that made me reconsider my previous notion. After going through it a second time I was more comfortable with the style, and therefore, was able to let it really soak in and transport me to this place. This would not be the best approach to take with multiple issues, but for a special episode it worked very well.
Allie has definitely molded a very different kind of book for Abe than I was expecting, but I enjoy the surprise of that. In some ways I wish we could attain more insight into what exactly Abe’s mindset is at this point in the story, but maybe he doesn’t even know himself. To me it seems as though he is loosing more and more of the man he used to be, and slowly morphing into the beast he may have always feared he could become.
Conclusion: This has been an interesting year for Abe so far, I know after all he has been through, adaptation is inevitable; especially with all the physical changes he has experienced. I’m not sure where it is all leading to, but I’m intrigued, and I want to continue to see where it goes. While the story has me pondering, the art has been phenomenal, and this issue particularly shows just how remarkable Max Fiumara’s storytelling is. This series is not the home run BPRD has become, but it’s doing a great job of showing the other side of the coin during Hell on Earth.