This is the final part of the visually impressive “Shadow Over Suwanee” arc. Yet again, Sebastián Fiumara’s experimentation with the comic leads to some jaw-dropping moments.
Written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie
Illustrated by Sebastián Fiumara
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Clem Robins
Abe left the BPRD to confront the monsters to which people said he was connected. Now he’s found one, towering over a doomed Florida town, leading to a terrifying meeting of the minds as Abe dives headfirst into the question of his own origins and purpose.
Mark: You know how last month’s cover had Abe among the frog monsters, with a long frog tongue curling out of his mouth? That never actually happened in the comic. As is often the case, it was a thematic cover, not a literal cover (and a really cool one at that). Given the freakish cover on this issue, you’d probably assume it’s another thematic cover. It’s not. And Sebastián Fiumara draws the hell out of that sequence.
Mike: Yeah he did! I’d even go so far as to say that the sequence inside the issue was actually a little more horrific than the cover wound up being. I was particularly unnerved by the tiny tentacles on his open eye! The whole sequence was really well done, and I found the idea of a fish-man drowning to be startling.
Mark: Yeah, the interiors actually took it further than the cover did. God, that was a horrifying sequence. I’m claustrophobic, so that was a particularly difficult read. I was taking very deep breaths.
For me, this is Sebastián Fiumara’s best arc. He pulled out all the stops.
Mike: For sure. I feel like that’s maybe because he’s really gotten to flex, you know? It really looks like he’s cutting loose.
But that sequence wasn’t just about Abe gasping for breath, or even those terrible little turtle/cricket things that were crawling all over him. Is it too soon to get into spoilers? I really want to hear your thoughts on the… visions Abe seemed to experience.
Mark: After the first four pages basically everything is spoiler territory, and it’ll quickly become difficult to talk around them, so let’s talk spoilers.
The vision… I’m not quite sure what it means. I interpret it as the spirit of the Odgru Hem trying to consume Abe’s. Abe’s spirit is manifested in the vision as Caul, holding aloft the egg that transformed him in Abe. The way Caul was holding up the egg, I feel like that’s what’s holding back the Ogdru Hem’s spirit.
So Abe’s not a frog monster. The egg found in Atlantis is not related to the Ogdru Hem. So this has solidified a certain theory I’ve had for a while.
In “Abe Sapien: The Drowning” it was pretty strongly implied that Abe comes from Dagon/Oannes, the god that protected and nurtured the humans in Babylon. Throughout history, he has sent his children, witches that look exactly like humans, to live among humans and guard them.
It was suggested Abe was like these children. But I don’t think he is. I think the Oannes Society was right about Abe (as Mignola’s crazy secret societies often are, even if they don’t grasp the subtleties of the details): He is Dagon. And I think it is Dagon’s children, and not the frog monsters, that will become the third race of man.
Abe’s transformation is the waking of a god.
What was your take on the vision?
Mike: I took the vision to be some sort of psychic/ethereal/spiritual battle between whatever Abe and the Ogdru Hem really are. By that I mean, assuming Abe is what you say he is, then like the Ogdru Hem, his purpose is infinitely larger than anything we could ever truly understand. Instead of dropping napalm on monsters, this felt like a way of doing battle that an Ogdru Hem understands. So maybe the vision was Abe’s human mind trying to comprehend the incomprehensible as he fought on some plane of reality that we can’t intuit or even experience?
So, if the vision was some kind of coping mechanism, then that leads me to wonder about some of the symbolism of it. The church, for example, seems to be a stake driven through the Ogdru Hem as it fell to the earth. It’s an interesting turn, considering 1) what you’ve already said about Abe becoming a god, and 2) the fact that some sort of religion has grown around the idea of Abe. If this vision is to be taken somewhat literally, then I think it spells bad news for his followers. In the vision, after the Ogdru Hem falls on the church, it remains standing, but the congregants inside all seem to have suffered some terrible fate. Maybe Abe is destined to lead an army of believers?Continued below
Mark: See the church stuff where I was really murky on the meaning. I like your take on it.
Back in “The Shape of Things to Come”, Abe had a conversation about the end of the world. He was told that in order for a new world to reborn, a god must sacrifice itself. I’m thinking ultimately that is the cost that will buy the world for the third race of man.
Mike: So then that makes me wonder, is Abe now a god, or merely a vessel? Is there a difference? Can the god sacrifice happen without Abe’s death? It feels like the deeper we dig into this, the more all roads seem to lead to Arcudi’s “Hell on Earth” wrap-up.
Speaking of, and this is a total aside, using the phrase ‘god sacrifice’ made me realize how much I’d love to see Dan Abnett take over “BPRD”. But that’s neither here nor there, I suppose.
Mark: I could see that. Personally, I’d like to see Cameron Stewart take on the next cycle of “BPRD”, but I think he’s got too many other things going on to do that.
As for Abe being a god or merely a vessel… no idea. I lean towards the former though. Abe, though he remembers Caul, is not Caul. But he’s not the water spirit Caul found either. Abe was born when the two became one. But that’s just emotions talking; I’ve no evidence to back that up.
While I think Abe will likely die, I feel like it’s more likely to come at the end of the next cycle of “BPRD” rather than the imminent end of “Hell on Earth”.
But let’s set aside that for a bit. I’m curious how you found the story with the Suwanee residents. The first time I read this, I got completely sucked in. When it got to the bit of Abe’s vision when he saw all the dead townsfolk with fungus growths all over them, I actually thought the vision had ended. I thought perhaps Abe emerged from the Ogdru Hem and was going to discover that days had past and in the meantime Suwanee had utterly gone to crap.
It would have been a cool moment, but it would have also been totally wrong for this point in the story. Abe really succeeded this time, even if he doesn’t quite understand how yet.
Mike: Yeah, he sort of Mr. Magooed his way into this win, didn’t he?
I guess when you compare the Suwanee residents to the last band of civilians, it sort of seems like they got the short end of the stick. Abe spent so long with Dayana and, eventually, the other Texans, that it seemed to have eaten up a bunch of the series’ real estate. I mean, Autumn didn’t even get to die on panel, you know? We’re just sort of told that it happened in the wrap-up. And now Abe is off to his next stop on the road towards armageddon.
Mark: Actually, I think we did see Autumn die. I’m pretty sure the frog monster that attacked Isaac was Autumn, even if Isaac didn’t realize it (or want to admit it).
It’s sort of the nature of a road-trip story like Abe’s that he’ll meet people and then leave pretty quickly. I feel like the stories of the people he meets are opportunities to explore different aspects of Abe, but those opportunities aren’t often developed very far. This one worked better for me than other arcs in that regard, but it still feels like it could have been taken further, to find the thematic link between Abe’s story and Autumn and Isaac’s. As it stands we have two stories that happen next to each other, but they don’t really say much about each other.
Mike: Jeez, you’re totally right about Autumn. I hadn’t realized that the scene with the frog took place at her little fishing spot. That sort of casts Isaac’s behavior at the end of the issue in a different light. Now I view it less as the sick concern over a missing loved one, and something flavored more by guilt, denial and uncertainty.Continued below
So what about that ending with Vaughn and Strobl? We haven’t seen them for a while, so I was glad to see them pop back up.
Mark: Me too. And this time it wasn’t just Strobl getting chatty. Instead, it was Shonchin doing the chatting, saying more than I think he has in all his past appearances combined. I’m actually hoping that we get an entire one-shot with Vaughn and Strobl before the “Dark and Terrible” cycle is over. I’d really like to dig in with them for a bit, like we got to at the end of the “To the Last Man” arc in Seattle.
This ending left me feeling more hopeful about Vaughn’s fate than I have for a long time. As Shonchin says, Vril power will burn Strobl away. But I can’t help but wonder, what about Vaughn? What would be become if that power found him?
Mike: I’m glad one of us is hopeful for the guy! After that whole scene, I was left feeling like Strobl is not nearly what he’s presented himself to be, at least in the grand scheme of things, and that Vaughn is just a resource that is being exploited.
Mark: Hope is a relative term. Vaughn’s situation is utterly crap.
Mike: The other great part of that scene was the two page spread. It was another moment in the issue for Fiumara to really shine, but in a very different way than when Abe was ‘drowning’ in the Ogdru Hem. That scene was meticulously rendered, all so that we can see every horrible detail of the experience. Here he’s getting to be way more gestural and minimal, grouping lines together to form abstracted shapes. He opened this mini series with a riff on Mignola’s style from twenty years ago, and here he’s closing it out by referencing the guy’s more modern work, particularly in those two insert panels. The lighting, the composition, the linework, it’s all there. And, as is always the case, Stewart is the lynchpin holding all of these nods and homages together. His choices are really what make the shifts in style, both for this issue and the series as a whole, make sense and work as well as they do.
Mark: Yeah, that’s Sebastián Fiumara riffing on Mignola around “Hellboy: The Island” era. That was a really cool moment, and a great way to wrap up this arc. It’s Sebastián’s choices that define this arc for me more than anything else. He could have approached the flashbacks as he always has, but this time he went and did something completely different.
So, anything else you want to mention before we score this one?
Mike: Nah, I think we gave this one a good once over. Between Sebastián’s art and some insight into Abe’s true nature, this one earns an 8 from me.
Mark: Yeah, I’m inclined to agree. 8 from me too.
Final Verdict: 8.
Update: After this interview went up, it came to our attention that Max Fiumara drew pages four to nine. Here’s a glimpse of the pencils and the final inks of page five, posted by Max Fiumara on Twitter.