Hugh Likes Comics: Abbott

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Abbott #1
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Drawn by Sami Kivela
Published by Boom! Studios


The Skinny-A black woman reports on a series of bizarre killings with occult significance while battling institutional racism in ’70’s Detroit.

Abbott is a remarkable comic, with a remarkable first issue. Its most impressive flourish is the sense of place, and its tension, that Ahmed and Kivela bring to the page. They do a standup job of bringing the powder keg of 1970’s Detroit to life. Enter Elena Abbott, a match if there eer was one. A reporter for the Daily Press, she is an unyielding force for truth in a city reluctant to face its own demons. Abbott is under pressure from her bosses and the police after she reported on the killing of a child in police custody. When she investigates a series of gruesome killings with occult significance, she becomes the target of a killer who may bring down both Detroits.
Abbott #1 is a master class of a first issue. In a few scant pages, we’re introduced to the complex world of 70’s Detroit, Abbott, her few allies, and her numerous enemies. Kivela skillfully leads the eye, and colors by Jason Wordie provide a gritty, evocative palate. The panels are interspersed with the text of Abbott’s articles, only giving the reader snippets of phrases. It is an efficient trick to build the world and also raise the tension on the page.
Abbott #1 is the start of a brilliant new series. Pick it up digitally from Comixology, or find a copy at Your Local Comics Shop!

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Hugh Likes Fiction: Star Wars: Canto Bight

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Star Wars: Canto Bight
Written by: Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant, and John Jackson Miller
Published by Del Rey


The Skinny: A collection of four loosely connected novellas set in the Star Wars casino-city of Canto Bight, as briefly seen in The Last Jedi.

In the latest Star Wars film, “The Last Jedi,” we get a very short glimpse of the casino city, Canto Bight, a playground for the rich and powerful play while the rest of the galaxy fights for survival against The First Order. But aside from the message that nobody good profits in wartime, and a delightfully destructive chase sequence, we spend little time there. Del Rey has released a novella collection focused on four stories of gamblers, tourists, servants and criminals that call Canto Bight home, and it is a delight.
The best of the four is “The Wine in Dreams,” by Mira Grant. It follows the self-described greatest sommelier in the galaxy, Derla Pidys, as she attempts to buy a rare bottle from a pair of sisters claiming to be from another dimension, all under the nose of a dangerous night club owner who will do anything to get it.
These four stories are very much in the vein of the new Expanded Universe. You won’t see any familiar faces from the movies in these pages, but they do a magnificent job of transforming a galaxy far, far away into a living, breathing place rather than a backdrop for Our Heroes’ Adventures. They also serve as a light, quick introduction to the writing of four excellent authors. You can find Star Wars: Canto Bight on Amazon, or in person at your local independent bookstore.

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Hugh Likes Comics: Black Bolt

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Black Bolt #1
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Art by Christian Ward
Published by Marvel Comics
Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans, wakes up in jail. Obviously an en-medias-res opening like this leads to a lot of tantalizing questions, such as who the hell is Black Bolt, what are the Inhumans, and why should I care? But Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward have plucked the character our of obscurity and polished it to a mirror shine.
Black Bolt is a difficult character for a number of reasons, most prominent of which is that he is such a strange character himself. Originally a Fantastic Four villain, He was the King of a hidden civilization in which a superhero royal family which ruled over a powerless underclass. His powerful voice could kill anyone who heard it, which made him effectively mute. In his appearances since, he is always paired with another character who talks for him on the page. As you can imagine, this would make a solo book difficult, but the creators have done a fantastic job with the character.
The first thing we see is Black Bolt returning to himself as he is imprisoned and tortured. Over the first five pages, we see him struggle and finally rise up. Ahmed’s writing is lyrical and affecting. The script reminds me of “Lone Wolf and Cub,” The narration boxes that accompany Black Bolt as he wanders through his cyclopean prison aren’t spare, but they are perfectly worded and paced to evoke that feeling. But Ward’s art is the real star here.
The labyrinth Black Bolt wanders through is huge, and it dwarfs the character. It is filled with odd angles and strange bits. The security cameras are disembodied red eyeballs. Blackagar wanders through arched cathedrals and Escher-esque staircase towers, with images of his past and family painted on the walls. The color palate is likewise perfect, with moody blues and blacks offset by searing pinks, the only light on the page the white highlights on the prisoner’s black costume.
Black Bolt #1 is a brilliant piece of graphic storytelling. In a market of serialized slugfest and paper-thin fables, this feels like the start of something important. Whatever your concerns with Marvel Publishing’s other work right now, I urge you to find and read this comic. Black Bolt #1 is available digitally through Comixology, or in print from your local comics shop.