Staff Book Reviews

Abbott by Saladin Ahmed, Sami Kivelä, and Jason Wordie

by Adult Services Library Associate Christian

“The trouble with paradise…is that the serpent finds its way in.”

In 1972, the city of Detroit is in a state of pandemonium—in the midst of long-running economic decline, police brutality, and now demonic forces, it is up to the titular journalist, Elena Abbott, to bring a light into this dark world. Abbott, a young, Black woman working for a small newspaper company, reports of a case of police brutality, which puts her reputation as a reporter into question—and as this happens, strange things start developing. The beheading of a horse, dead bodies, the missing son of the owner of a diner she frequents, and a mysterious figure with an ancient mask that corners her in an alley—all things that connect to a conclusion where Abbott must face her past and bring a resolve to the city of Detroit.

What Abbott does in its short, five-issue run is create a sprawling world with so much life and character. It feels like seeing a glimpse of an alternative past, but one that would never be recognized in its time. Although this graphic novel began its run two years ago, it feels more relevant than ever. In her story, Abbott states that the city of Detroit is “an environment that has left many of the city’s residents wondering if any part of Detroit can truly be considered safe.” This is a thought that looms within every conversation Abbott has outside her immediate circle of friends and past lovers and one that rings familiar in the current state of the world.

Abbott was written by Saladin Ahmed, a prominent, new voice in comic books. He has been a writer for a lot of popular characters such as Miles Morales, Black Bolt, and Ms. Marvel. His writing style feels like it captures a world that already exists and continues to exist within this short frame of 100-something pages—and it makes sense as Ahmed has written a novel and poetry. His versatility as a writer shines in this graphic novel by showcasing a level of depth in the world and characters he builds.

This graphic novel was brought to my attention while putting together a list for a recent program that we hosted virtually, “Black Power in Comics”. And I am glad I took the chance to read this short-run comic, as it a story that stuck with me and one I wish had not ended as soon as it has. Abbott feels like it could be an ongoing series, but is serves a purpose in the way that it ends. It is a story that represents something that could not be forged in the decade it is based in and a story that is needed now more than ever.

For more graphic novels like this one, I recommend checking out the rest of the “Black Power in Comics” carousel, found on our Black Lives Matter page.