Abbot #1: Chapter One, Just My Imagination
Saladin Ahmed, writer
Sami Kivela, illustrator
Jason Wordie, colors
Jim Campbell, letters
Reviewed by Tom Zimm
The issue, a whodunit story, with a mystical element, stuffed in a socio-political period piece, opens with Elana Abbott arriving at a horse stable where someone has cut the head off a police horse and left it in the stable. The police are blaming the Black Panthers. Abbott writes a story exposing the police department’s bias.
The main character, Elena Abbott is a writer for a Detroit newspaper. She has developed connection in the neighborhoods and has endeared herself to the community. Elana’s defends the black community but not without push back. She’s got a cool strut, always with a cigarette in her mouth, a sign of the times.
This story is set in Detroit, MI in 1972. The societal norms expressed in the issue feel more like it could be the 1940’s. For example, white men call black women negros in work settings. The main character, who’s a strong, career-oriented, backed-by-the-community, black woman is regularly dismissed by her male counterparts setting the tone for the book.
Beyond the complex socio-political aspect of the story, the strength of this issue is the art, specifically, the way it captures the facial expressions of the characters. The artist captures the emotions of the characters accurately and with great detail throughout. In addition, clothing styles and picturesque representations of downtown Detroit ground the book in the 1970’s.
The presence of a mystical aspect of the story is aptly introduced through a prior relationship Abbot has with an “African” boyfriend. She is exposed to his spiritual beliefs in the relationship. Fast forward to the crime scene anda connection is made to mysticism through the dismembered horse head and a severed body in the form of Abbott’s reaction. Her emotional response appears to be a trigger for a supernatural presence. The ending of the first issue firmly establishes this.
I highly recommend this book for its treatment of racial and cultural issues, the mystery developed, and the supernatural elements of the book. The main character is interesting, strong, and expresses a firm sense of her identity as a black woman.
In addition, Ella has close professional cohorts, white male journalists, who are attuned to her plight and supportive. For example, her editor kicks a couple board members, Mr. Grant and Mr. Moore, out of his office when they express racist beliefs. The presence of both racist and supportive white male characters reinforces the nuance and further highlights the importance of racial issues rather than detracting the reader through simplistic dichotomies.
Finally, the story sets the tone for a satisfying supernatural-horror subplot that will satisfy the fans who love this type of work. At the end of the issue, (spoilers) Elena walks to her car alone, after observing a murder scene, and encounters a mystical mist. She has a strong emotional and physiological reaction but follows the mist anyway. She stops, thinking that the mist disappeared. However, she feels the presence stronger then ever and then falls to the ground as a large figure stands over her holding a knife. I’m very intrigued to see how this story develops moving forward.