Note: This review was originally published at ComicsBulletin.com
The Bible uses this term to describe a bottomless pit – the realm of the dead. It’s also a fitting title for the latest from writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, joined by artist Fabrizio Fiorentino and colorist Alessia Nocera, in an adaptation of an original screenplay by Spencer Marstiller. Abbadon is the latest in a series of successful creator-owned projects from Palmiotti and Gray under their PaperFilms label, and it is the one with the most built-in expectations. Having spent almost 9 years writing DC Comics’ Jonah Hex and All-Star Western, Palmiotti and Gray have made a name for themselves within the western genre.
As the name of the publisher implies, Abbadon is not so much an original graphic novel as it is a cinematic experience on the page. This is not only attributed to Palmiotti and Gray’s screenwriting experience, but also layouts by Fiorentino. The artist makes extensive use of horizontal, page-width panels to simulate a film in widescreen format. Furthermore, Fiorentino adeptly maneuvers the characters through space, fluidly simulating motion using static images.
Stories in the Western genre often use the rise or expanse of civilization as a cautionary tale of the effects on not only the land, but individuals’ morality too. It is this convention that lies at the core of Palmiotti and Gray’s script. Though it reads as a taut mystery or thriller set in the Old West, Abbadon is an overarching commentary on corruption in society, one that resonates in today’s unpopular political landscape. The resolution offers a biting reminder that some figures in the public eye will do horrible things to attain power.
Bringing those horrors to life is Fiorentino, who does not shy away from violence. Though the script may be the real culprit, he adds hardcore violence to nearly every page. It adds to the story’s breakneck pace, barely giving readers an opportunity to breathe. There are times where its excess begins to suffocate to book’s tone. One instance during a public hanging is so over-the-top that it comes close to pulling the story into full-on camp. Thankfully, the creative team is able to reign in the narrative before taking that leap completely.
The color work by Alessia Nocera is astounding. Nocera is a relative unknown, having done most of her work at indie publisher GG Studios. However, her work on this title is evidence of her developing skill. Abbadon is a grimy town on the American Frontier, which Nocera captures with a mix of muddy hues, accented by the occasional splash of a vibrant color.
Abbadon is not for everyone. It is a raw, grimy vision of the Old West that some may find off-putting. However, those that enjoy either gritty Westerns or Palmiotti and Gray’s past work, particularly on titles like Jonah Hex, will find Abbadon to be a welcome addition to their bookshelf.