Abyss #3 & 4
Written by Kevin Rubio
Pencils and Cover by Lucas Marangon
Inks by Nick Schley
Colors by Andrew Dalhouse
Letters by Troy Peteri
Red 5 Comics
Cover price: $2.95; On sale: April 30, 2008
Abyss is back!
And… Abyss is finished.
See what happens when you wait four months between reviews?
Yes, it’s true, this month marks the grand finale of Red 5’s four-issue miniseries, but choke back those tears, my friends! I have a sneaking suspicion this may only be the beginning for this fresh new take on the classic “taking over the family business” story… or, at least, it could be, if it does as well as I’m sure both the creators and publisher are hoping it will.
So, the question is… how does it do?
Well, when I reviewed Abyss #2 back in January, my biggest gripe with the book had to do with writer/creator Kevin Rubio’s habit of filling pages with forced jokes that weren’t funny enough to justify the amount of story they were replacing, and ended up distracting from the more natural comedic beats of the book.
In Abyss #3, that pesky little habit is left by the wayside completely. The story moves forward at a rapid-fire pace, only pausing for genuine character moments and comedic beats that are, this time around, REALLY effing funny.
Things kick into gear when the superhero Arrow’s sidekick goes missing after a well-publicized night out on the town. Eric (our protagonist) learns that her kidnapping was orchestrated by his father, the villainous Abyss, and, armed with that information, he set’s out to help Arrow save the day. I can’t really say much more than that without giving away plot points that could be considered spoilerific, but I will say that we get a little more insight into papa-Abyss’s secret scheme and plenty of fun interactions between Eric, the Arrow, and one of the Arrow’s (numerous) former sidekicks, Schaafte.
(That’s right… just let it roll off your tongue… don’t force it…)
In fact, I’d have to say that Arrow and Schaafte’s interactions are the high point of the series. Their snarky banter and endless war of one-upmanship will make you wonder how Batman and Nightwing turned out so well.
The issue ends on a nice cliffhanger, whetting our appetite for the final installment. At this point, things are looking up for the series. Each issue has been an experiment in storytelling, with Rubio trying to find his stride and, at last, he seems to have hit it. Bring on the next issue!
Well… the next issue starts well enough. The opening action scene serves as a satisfying payoff for the previous issue’s ending, and has probably my favorite moment in the entire series… “Hey, hey, HEY! Thermo-Nuclear-Warhead!”
(read the issue… you’ll know what I’m talking about…)
And, of course, at last, Abyss’s grand scheme is finally revealed…!
And… it’s… just… not all that satisfying. I mean, I get what the intention was. The comic is a comedy! Irony is comedy. I get the joke. But when you start to consider everything that has happened leading up to it, you’ve really got to wonder… why? WHY was there a thermo-nuclear-warhead? WHY was anything that took place in the previous three issues necessary for the outcome of the fourth? There is an attempt to offer some sort of explanation in the final scene, but it really doesn’t justify what has come before.
What makes it worse is that when that big finish finally rolls around, it’s given two pages of scattered action and a one-page wrap up at the end. That’s an entire issue (to be honest, four issues) leading up to this big reveal, which amounts to little more than a rimshot and a wink, and then THREE pages taken to wrap it all up, final battle and all.
Once again, that problem of story management and pacing mars an otherwise decent issue. Even with the slightly disappointing reveal at the end, the fun factor of the book could have still saved the day, but by the time you turn the last page, you realize the most exciting part of the issue was the eight-page action scene at the beginning! Again, too much space was given to jokes that just didn’t make up for the time it took to tell them.
So, with problems like that, why don’t I just give the final issue a C- and move on? Because, as glaringly lacking as that ending is, almost everything leading up to it is still enjoyable. As I said, the opening sequence is very satisfying, and though there are a few story elements that are just a tad too convenient (such as how all the heroes end up wearing Abyss suits by the end) the overall appeal of the book makes up for it. Rubio is a good writer. He’s got a good sense of humor, fun characters, and clever ideas… he just seems to have it all cranked up to 11 a lot of time when a moderate 8 or 9 will suffice.
The final scene does leave an interesting question hanging in the air, and a back door open for further adventures, and I, for one, would like to see more Abyss stories in the future, if only to watch Rubio further evolve into the monumental talent I know he could be. It takes a special mind to successfully juxtapose the bible, superhero mythology, and the comic book convention culture, using only occasional pages of artwork and a few choice passages. He does it, and he does it with style. I’ve got faith in the guy.
Also, I wouldn’t feel right wrapping up this review without speaking about the series artist, Lucas Marangon, whose art has grown subtley, but noticeably tighter from issue to issue. His handling of the opening fight scene is kinetic and exciting, and the aforementioned “biblical” pages are beautifully realized (cameos and all). I admit, it took a little while for his style to grow on me, but by the end of the book, I could imagine no one else drawing these characters.
Though the series yo-yoes in quality from issue to issue, Abyss never really scrapes bottom. There are elements of the overall story I wish could be tightened up, but the end goal has always been to have fun, and it definitely succeeds in that. If you’re looking for a fun bit of entry-level superheroics, I would definitely recommend giving this series a try. Abyss #3 gets a B+ from me, and issue #4 gets a B-, which brings the overall rating of the series to a solid B.