Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Sami Kivelä
Colors: Mattia Iacono
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
In Abbott 1973 #1, it’s been a year since the eponymous reporter vanquished the forces of darkness that threatened to inundate her home city of Detroit. But while she may have emerged victorious in the first round of the battle, as seen in the excellent first run of Abbott, released in 2018, the war against evil continues.
Welcome to the world of yesterday
From the very first page, Abbott 1973 provides an indelible sense of setting, both in terms of time and place – and speaking of that first page, it will look very familiar to readers of the first volume, immediately establishing a sense of continuity for the series. With clips from national news stories (like a call for Nixon’s resignation) and a road map centering Detroit, the reader is immediately brought into Abbott’s time and place.
That setting continues to be felt throughout the comic, thanks in large part of the intentional inclusion of buildings and scenery unique to the place and time – not to mention the stylish outfits we get to see worn by Abbott and her girlfriend, Amelia.
And speaking of Abbott’s girlfriend, that’s one of the other ways that the comic accomplishes its sense of place: in the first few pages, as they pass a hetero couple, Abbott expresses how uncomfortable she is that Amelia has remarked that they sleep next to one another. Abbott does not have the privilege of being comfortable with being open regarding her relationship with another woman – and the fact that the comic begins to explore these intersectional issues has me hopeful that we’ll be proceeding further down this path in subsequent issues.
Early in the comic, the villain of the previous arc, Bellcamp, is dismissed as “an up-jumped novice with no eye for the grand design.” While Abbott 1973 may be set several decades in the past, its villains helps secure its place as one of the most timely comics to hit the stands today: as the surviving members of the white supremacist group aligned against Abbott turn on their former champion, the comic explores how despicable groups of people can turn on their leaders when they fail to deliver on their strongman promises.
However, Abbott 1973 #1 delivers more than just the obvious villain, emphasizing that Abbott’s antagonists may be capable of adopting sheep’s clothing in their attempts to defeat the intrepid detective.
The challenges that Abbott faces in Abbott 1973 #1 aren’t just limited to the machinations of her archenemies, either. Abbott may have secured a job writing for Detroit’s most prominent Black newspaper, the Detroit Chronicle, but shortly after the new publisher, Mr. Manning, introduces himself to the paper’s staff, friction develops between him and Abbott.
This conflict is especially engaging because it isn’t as straightforward as, say, a publisher who refuses to run Abbott’s reporting. In fact, he’s supportive of the article she’s writing about the racist propaganda that has recently been distributed to local white neighborhoods.
However, while Manning may approve of Abbott’s articles, he attempts to police her in other ways, questioning whether she’s been projecting a sufficient amount of “ladylike professionalism,” and insisting that she consider whether or not she is “displaying respectability.” He questions her clothes, her language, and (in spite of the fact that nearly every reporter at the paper smokes) her cigarettes.
The idea that Abbott is being held to a different standard than the other reporters is an important one, and it becomes even more complicated when another character – an older Black woman – shares her own personal experiences with our hero.
And it will be especially interesting to see how this subplot unfolds over the next few issues: since Abbott cannot blindly pushback against Manning – it might risk her ability to have her voice heard through her newspaper reporting if Manning decides to fire her for disagreeing with him – it remains to be seen what strategy she will utilize in order to create a more stable situation at her workplace.
Abbott 1973 #1
Both the supernatural conspiracy against the city’s first Black mayoral candidate and Abbott’s professional challenges as a Black woman reporter in 1973 Detroit are engaging storylines that offer huge narrative potential – and considering how well every aspect of the first issue of Abbott 1973 came out, it seems reasonable to expect that, like the first run, this arc will deliver on those prospects.