The influx of quality crime comics over the last two decades has helped keep alive the storied pulp tradition of the early twentieth century, when hardboiled detective yarns and creepy horror rags ruled the spin racks. And as great as it is to read a modern by-the-numbers crime epic, like Kane or Goldfish, the beauty of this medium is the ability to blur lines between genres; shadows hide more than cigarette smoke and bullet casings. Brubaker and Phillips get it, in stuff like Kill or Be Killed; David Lapham in Stray Bullets. I’d like to nominate Abbott, by Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivelä, for inclusion on that list of engaging supernatural crime chillers.

Elena Abbott is a badass chain-smoking reporter investigating a series of grisly murders set against the powderkeg backdrop of early-70’s Detroit. Abbott’s husband had been murdered, years earlier, under an ominous cloud of dark, ancient magic. Now, the “claws of the shadow world” have reappeared, leaving their calling card on these slayings, and Abbott realizes that she might be the only person who can crack the case.

Ahmed, who has already impressed us with his Black Bolt series for Marvel, likens his tale to Kolchak: The Night Stalker or The X-Files. And, for the most part, those story influences shine through. Through the first two issues of this five-part mini, however, and I may be more impressed with the cast of characters, atmosphere, and overall series tone than anything else.

A lot of the credit in that department goes to Finnish artist Kivelä and colorist Jason Wordie. Kivelä’s layouts are sharp, with just the right amount of shadow and grime, and his character expressions are economical and precise, somewhat reminiscent of Will Eisner. Wordie’s palette is muted, but with enough sudden contrast to let the supernatural elements ripple through.

As Ahmed continues to hone his comic book chops, I look forward to appreciating the development of Elena Abbott. With any luck, this case will be the first of many.

February 21 | New Release Highlights | March 7