Saladin Ahmed’s Abbott series has been one of the exciting original stories of 2018, with its focus on blaxploitation and political upheaval in 1970s Detroit. The momentum continues to build in issue three, as Elena Abbott looks to unravel a mystery that’s becoming increasingly supernatural. The story picks up directly from the second issue, with Abbott trying to escape a murderous centaur that’s determined to cut her investigation short.
The dark streets of Detroit are put on full display during the opening chase and there’s a sense of Abbott #3 being more fast-paced than the previous issues. Ahmed thrusts the reader into the driving seat, making you feel Abbott’s fear as she desperately tries to get away from the centaur. The tense sequence finishes with Abbott using her camera flash to banish the creature in much the same way she did with the first supernatural beast to cross her path.
In the morning, Abbott is greeted by the father of a young man who’s gone missing called Wardell. More and more black people are disappearing, leading to Abbott redoubling her efforts, despite her paranoia. Local pot-smoking mystic, Sebastian meets with Abbott and tells her she has the power to vanquish The Umbra, though Ahmed still doesn’t go into much detail about what exactly the supernatural force is.
Back at the office, Abbott speaks to her editor about what she’s been seeing, only for him to take her off the murder story. The editor’s intentions are good, with him trying to protect Elena and watch out for her in a work environment that’s hostile to women and black people. He still comes off gruff and chauvinistic, keeping with the times.
Abbott is put on a fluff piece about the Detroit University. On campus, she encounters another supernatural occurrence that makes her wonder if she’s losing her mind. Ahmed continues to demonstrate his skill at blending crime and supernatural elements together, revealing information at a gradual pace.
Abbott’s resiliency is one of the strongest parts of the issue, due to her hunt for answers among the chaos. Like the most dedicated reporter, she refuses to give up until she’s found what she’s looking for. Political themes resonate throughout the comic: white privilege, corruption and police brutality form the bedrock of Detroit. It’s suggested the magical realism that Abbott encounters is the result of these issues and it’s riveting stuff.
Sami Kivela’s detailed art also makes the comic worth reading. I like how bright colours are juxtaposed against dark backgrounds to create a sinister looking Detroit. The best art happens when the supernatural creeps into the mundane, such as when Abbott is exploring the university. Red, purple and blue are used to great effect.
Abbott #3 is less about world-building and more about driving the story forward. It’s an excellent issue, but new readers may need to go back to the beginning of the series to fully appreciate what’s going on. Be sure to read The Comic Vault’s review of the Issue 1 and Issue 2 so you can be brought up to speed.